Big plays doom Pioneers in 46-13 loss to Cougars
WINCHESTER — In the first quarter and a half Friday night, the Kettle Run football team had the ball inside the Millbrook 20-yard line four times.
Each time, the Pioneers stood their ground. Millbrook forced two fumbles, a 37-yard field goal attempt that missed, and a turnover on downs.
But even the best defensive efforts can be marred by big plays, and Kettle Run made several to break open Friday’s game in a hurry.
Junior David Eldridge returned one of four Kettle Run interceptions 25 yards for a touchdown for the game’s first score with 5:05 left in the second quarter, and in a true backbreaker, Eldridge hauled in a long pass at the Millbrook 15, broke a tackle, then ran in the rest of the way for a 45-yard touchdown with just one second on the first-half clock to make it 14-0.
Kettle Run used the momentum of that play and just continued to make more to break open a defensive slugfest in a 46-13 rout of Millbrook.
Of the Cougars’ six second-half scores, two were for more than 50 yards, two were safeties, and another was a defensive touchdown. That last score made it 46-0 with 11:20 left in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense, we played our hearts out,” said two-way senior lineman Jonathan Crowley — who was shaken up and left the game when the score was 16-0 in the third quarter — while sporting an ice bag on his back. “We had a couple of mishaps there towards the end of the first half, and we just can’t give [opponents] those things.
“Those are what wins and loses games, and we didn’t make the plays we needed to. We could have shut them out for the first half.”
The Pioneers (1-2) at least looked they would only be trailing 7-0 at the half. But Kettle Run (1-1) elected not to settle for just a 7-0 lead despite Millbrook’s struggles on offense.
After taking over at the Pioneer 45 following a punt with 11 seconds left in the half, Cougars quarterback Denzel Champion (159 yards and two touchdowns passing, 100 yards and one touchdown rushing) let a pass fly down the right side of the field.
Though no Pioneer was able to outleap Eldridge, Millbrook did have a chance to tackle him. But the defender bounced off, and Eldridge ran toward the end zone. A late grab of Eldridge by a couple Pioneer players near the goal line was too late.
“That was real huge,” Kettle Run coach Jeff Lloyd said. “It was a big pick-me-up going into halftime, and that was worth me calling a timeout there. It was a great throw, and the receiver made a great finish after going up and catching the football.”
For the Pioneers, that play — as well as some of the other big ones they gave up — were precisely the type they were trying to avoid.
“As I said earlier the week, [the message was] ‘do your job,’” Millbrook coach Josh Haymore said. “A lot of the things that we did, we just didn’t do our job.
“We as coaches need to reevaluate to make sure we’re putting the kids in the correct position. You look at some of those big plays, we’ve just got to make tackles. It’s execution and do your job.”
Speaking of positions, Millbrook’s offense continuously found itself in horrible ones.
Though it was partly a result of the Pioneers making so many defensive stops near their own goal line, Millbrook’s average starting field position for its last six drives of the first half was its own 11. (The Pioneers started at their own 47 on their first.) For the game, the Pioneers’ average starting field position was their own 17 for 14 drives.
Millbrook had just one first down through three quarters and rushed for minus-22 yards on 29 carries overall.
Millbrook starting quarterback Austin De tray (2 of 9 for 33 yards and three interceptions) was sacked twice in the end zone in the third quarter after one drive started at the 4 (because of a Kettle Run punt) and another started at the 5 (because a kickoff was fielded while the player was kneeling down). The interception that was returned for a touchdown in the first half came while De tray was standing in the end zone.
“Field position was a killer,” Haymore said. “It was awful.
“It limits what you do on offense. As a coach, you look at parts of the field where you can only run certain plays. You look at the two safeties, you don’t want to be in the gun throwing the ball, but you don’t want to run power if you can’t block the ‘A’ gap. You’re in between a rock and a hard place. It’s difficult to call a game on that end of the field.”
In addition to the defense in the first half, the Pioneers did get a solid effort from sophomore quarterback Mark Paxton after he replaced De tray late in the third quarter.
Paxton threw an interception on his second throw, but he finished the game by completing 6 of his last 10 passes and throwing touchdown passes to Justin Singh (36 yards) and Connor Faint (11 yards) after the Pioneers had fallen behind 46-0.
Haymore said the the Pioneers have to figure out a way to regroup.
“We had a great week of practice this week, and now we’ve got to practice even harder,” Haymore said.
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1