Special teams miscues doom OLM against Landmark
by Christopher Dunn
For a half, the Our Lady of Mercy Bobcats hung with they highly-ranked Landmark Christian War Eagles. After the break, youthful special teams miscues doomed the home team as Landmark pulled away for a 35-6 victory.
A team with just over 30 players, single-digit seniors, and multiple freshman starting, Mercy gave Landmark, a legitimate state title contender, everything they could handle for two quarters. The Bobcat offense showed promise early, sophomore quarterback Garrison Hand hitting George Haynes for nine yards, and freshman N’Zoyn Poole plunging for the first first down. Facing 4th and three, Hand hit Jamil Sawyerr for 11 yards to get past midfield, but the drive would stall.
Landmark wasted no time getting to work, Lofton Tidwell plowing through the heart of the defense for 42 yards on the first snap. Joey Blount capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown, and Tom Austin added the extra point for a quick 7-0 lead.
The defenses locked in as the game moved into the second quarter. After Hand hit Caleb Pressley for 18 yards, Tidwell killed the Mercy drive with a sack. Mercy got their big stop with a George Haynes interception. A 16-yard pass from Hand to Robert Chery and a 25-yard run by Pressley would have the Bobcats deep in War Eagle territory before Landmark bowed up and forced a fumble.
Late in the half, the War Eagles put together another strong series, Tidwell running for 27 yards and Blount hitting Nicolas Toomer for 20. After a team sack led by Adrain Andrews, Blount scrambled for 14 yards to get back in field goal range. Landmark lined up for a 36-yard field goal attempt looking to take a 10-0 lead with just seconds left in the half. Mercy had other ideas, surging through the line to block the kick. Taj Dodson scooped it up and raced the distance for a momentum-swinging touchdown. The extra point would miss just to the left, narrowing Landmark’s lead to 7-6 at halftime.
The War Eagles shook off the rough finish, surging out of the locker rooms with a 76-yard scoring drive. The biggest chunk came on a 30-yard bomb from Blount to Luke McLain, Blount scrambling to buy time until his receiver got open. Tidwell finished the possession off emphatically, running over the defense and dragging a number of Bobcats with him into the end zone on a 19-yard touchdown for a 14-6 lead.
Cracks soon started showing in the Bobcats. They would muff the ensuing kickoff when Landmark kicked it short and knocked the ball loose from the return man. Mercy would turn them away despite the great field position, but Blount would intercept a pass and return it for a touchdown and a 21-6 lead.
Landmark pooch kicked it short again, and no Mercy player stepped up to catch it, allowing for another War Eagle recovery. Aided by a bad pass interference call, the War Eagles would move into the red zone where Blount ran in for a 15-yard score and a 28-6 lead.
Adjusted for the short kick, George Haynes would field the ball and run it back past midfield, but a penalty hurt the Bobcats. Forced to punt, a high snap sailed all the way back to the Mercy 25. Landmark took advantage, Tidwell punching it in from three yards out for a 35-6 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
Mercy handed the ball back over on a fumbled option handoff, and Landmark would spend the rest of the quarter calling off the dogs and running down clock in the commanding win.
Turnovers cripple Fayette in 34-14 loss to Riverdale
by Dylan Hynson
The Fayette County Tigers played in their first region contest last Friday, looking to rebound after an 11-8 loss to Pike County. However, turnovers and penalties hurt the Tigers chances of winning as they fell to Riverdale 34-14.
“The positive from this game is that our defense played really well at times,” head coach Mike Davis said. “Offense never got started, they never got going. Riverdale is a great football team, but we shot ourselves in the foot on offense.”
Fayette got the ball first and made the most of it with a 24-yard run by senior James Hawkins. Even with the great run, the drive stalled out as three straight penalties would force a Tiger punt. The defense stepped up in a huge as they returned a scoop-and-score fumble to the house to put the Tigers on top 7-0 with 7:27 left in the quarter.
“It really set the tone defensively,” Davis said. “There were times in the game where we made some great stands, and this play really started all of that.”
Riverdale responded quickly, as senior quarterback Joseph Cambridge found Keenan Thomas for a 4-yard touchdown and a fake extra point would lead to an 8-7 lead for the Raiders.
On the Tigers next play from scrimmage, Raiders senior Lloyd Scott III stripped senior quarterback Malcolm Easterwood and recovered the ball at the Fayette 34-yard line to give Riverdale excellent field position. The Raiders moved down the field, looking to score again after Thomas made a splendid catch for a first down on third and long. Eventually they got to the goal line, but a spectacular stand from the Tiger defense kept the score locked at 8-7 Riverdale.
“The defense came up huge for us all night,” Davis said. “I gave them high praise for that. Anytime you get a team of that caliber down in the red zone and shut them out or hold them to a field goal, that’s a sign of growth and maturity. We’ll definitely take that into the next game.”
Fayette mimicked their first drive on their next series, starting off with a 20-yard run, but as the first quarter came to a close they would be forced to punt again. The Tiger defense almost made two huge plays on the next drive, with chances at interceptions on the first two plays. A pass interference on third down would continue the drive for the Raiders. The defense finally came up with the stop and forced a punt a few plays later.
The Tiger offense committed its second turnover of the night on a bobbled pitch, giving the Raiders another great chance to score at the Tiger 12-yard line. The defense came up big once again, almost adding an interception on third down, and forcing a field goal from the Raiders to make it 11-7 Riverdale with five minutes left in the half.
Raider punt returner Johnathan Foster notched an excellent punt return to the Fayette 40 after the Tigers went three and out. Riverdale took advantage and found Thomas again on a slant route for a first down. A face mask penalty tacked on put them at the Tiger 12-yard line. The Tigers then came up strong in the red zone again, getting a huge sack and a Raider penalty to push them back 20 yards and force a punt. A muff of the ensuing punt for the third Tiger turnover of the half set up the Raiders with a first and goal. The Tiger defense stayed resilient and only allowed a field goal to increase the lead to 14-7 with 2 seconds left. Fayette would attempt a hail mary before the half, but it would fall incomplete at the 5-yard line to keep the score 14-7 at the break.
“We told them in the locker room that the defense needed to take those stands as a positive,” Davis said. “We took that and said ‘Hey, look what we can do together as one.’ The defense played hard even though we were down a score.”
Riverdale would start the second half white hot, as Thomas was found early and often throughout the drive. He caught a huge pass all the way to the Fayette 35, then caught another pass to the 14-yard line, but the play was flagged for an ineligible receiver down field to push the Raiders back. Even with the big penalty, Thomas was found again and made several defenders miss for a Raiders touchdown to increase the lead to 21-7 with 8:56 left in the third quarter.
The defensive line for the Raiders made their presence felt on the next drive as they forced Fayette’s fourth turnover on a sack and fumble. Riverdale recovered the ball at the 1-yard line and were destined to score again. The Tiger defense came up with a big first down sack and two great coverage plays to force a field goal try. This time, the kicker missed it to the right, giving the Tigers new life. That new life was short lived as the Tigers center snapped the ball over Easterwood’s head and Riverdale recovered it at the Fayette 30-yard line.
“We need to fix the turnovers,” Davis said. “To me, a lot of turnovers is a lack of concentration and so we’ve got to concentrate and focus more in those situations.”
It took Riverdale three plays to get back on the scoreboard, as Cambridge found Jakwon Lipscomb in the back of the end zone to increase the Raider lead to 27-7 after the missed two-point conversion.
With only 2:22 left in the third quarter, the Tigers needed to score to save the game from being a blowout. A minute later, Carrington took a draw play 52 yards and scored the first offensive touchdown of the night for Fayette to cut the lead in half at 27-14.
“We have some athletes on the field, there is no doubt about it.” Davis said. “We got rejuvenated with the touchdown, but we have to execute the entire game. We can score, it’s just all mental for us right now.”
Riverdale put the game to rest as the fourth quarter began, with Foster catching a pass, spinning out of a tackle, and finding his way into the end zone for the final score of the game. The 15-yard strike sealed the game as Riverdale dominated the second half and took the game 34-14 for a big road win.
“Turnovers will kill you,” Davis said. “We had seven last week, five tonight. Against a team like [Riverdale], you cannot do that. That’s the difference in the game.”
Fayette will have to turn around after the tough loss and face McIntosh on the road Friday night, as McIntosh celebrates homecoming. Coach Davis wants his team to forget about the tough loss and focus on the turnover problem his team has faced all year long. He believes that the region is still up for grabs and his team is very capable of earning their first region win of the year.
“McIntosh is always a well-coached team,” Davis said. “They’ve beaten us the last two years, but they lost to Riverdale as well in kind of the same fashion. The focus this week is not going to be on beating McIntosh, it’s going to be not beating ourselves.”