Bradley Ector turns the corner against the Bulldog defense. (Staff Photos by Christopher Dunn)

New season, same result. For the sixth straight year, McIntosh opened up football season with a win, using a suffocating defense and a steady offense to go on the road and beat the Decatur Bulldogs 28-3.

“It goes without saying it’s great to start off with a win,” said McIntosh Coach Lee Belknap, beaming about the way the players have grown together through the weeks of grueling offseason work. “The thing that I’m most proud of with this group is they’re just becoming a family. They care about each other. They work for each other. They hurt for each other. Tonight they won for each other. That really is a coach pleaser when you see that from your football team.”

It was a complete team effort for the Chiefs. The defense forced three first-half turnovers, the offense was productive and efficient, and the special teams was reliable.

“What a great team effort,” said Belknap, giving special credit to freshman kicker William Mason who was 4-for-4 on extra points, and Ryan Sanders, who stepped in at punter. “Like we always say, the guy wearing the green hat got it done.”

For De’Andre Wade, the taste of victory was extra sweet. He was in the middle of a breakout campaign in 2016 when he tore a knee ligament and missed most of the season. The hours and weeks and months of rehab led up to Friday night, and he made his return count, registering three takeaways in the first half.

“It feels great just to prove that I can do it,” said Wade. “I accomplished what many said I couldn’t do just being able to get back and play again.”

Wade and the defense were immovable. Every first half drive for the Bulldogs ended in either a three-and-out or a turnover. Their first first down wouldn’t come until the first half when they started in good field position and settled for a 42-yard field goal.

“We played with a lot of passion. I love my guys, They go hard every play,” said Wade. “This is what we’ve worked for all summer long, and it felt great.”

The start was strong with Trey Williams penetrating into the backfield on the first snap redirecting the running back into the arms of Eathan Foncannon for a 9-yard loss. On the second play, Foncannon deflected a pass over the top to force the first punt.

The offense started on Decatur’s 36 and made good use of the excellent field position. Bradley Ector converted the first 3rd and long with a 7-yard run. The second 3rd and long was even more fruitful, as Dane Kinamon hit Ector in stride streaking behind the defense for a 21-yard touchdown. Freshman William Mason added the extra point.

The offense’s second series was stalled, but Wade stole it right back with an interception and return just short of the goal line. On the next play, Kinamon punched it in from the two for a 14-0 lead.

The Chief defense held Decatur without a first half first down.

The defensive line wreaked havoc again on the next series, standing tall on 3rd and short with Oseme Ojukwu surging into the backfield to set up Ryan Sanders for the takedown to force the punt.

Decatur’s first series in the second quarter was sent reeling with a shared sack by Ethan Ange, Kaemon Gooden, and Sanders to put them in a hole. Looking to climb out quickly, the Bulldogs went for the bomb, but Wade easily came down with the jump ball for his second interception.

Kinamon went to the air on the next series, finding a strong connection with Ryan Cate. Cate hauled in a 13-yard pass, then he got behind the secondary for a 41-yard touchdown.

The defense stole it right back on the next snap with a Ryan Sanders strip fumble recovery. Sanders went to the end zone untouched, but an inadvertent whistle negated the return, setting the offense up on the Decatur 31. They converted a 4th and 4 with a Kinamon-Cate 6-yard pass, and an Ector 18-yard run set up an Ector 1-yard plunge and a 28-0 lead.

Wade killed any chances of Decatur momentum by stripping and recovering the ball on the ensuing kickoff to send the game into halftime 28-0.

The second half wasn’t as dominant for the Chiefs as the offense could not string together much, but the defense was every bit as suffocating, allowing just the long field goal as they cruised to the 28-3 victory.

McIntosh sets their sights on 2-0 this week at home versus Mt. Zion.


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