Kettle Run drops season opener, 31-21
Saturday, Aug. 31
--Photo By Adam Goings
With seven new starters on each side of the ball, Jeff Lloyd and his Kettle Run Cougars knew that a lack of experience could be an issue entering the first week of the 2013 high school football season.
The potential weakness turned out to be a frustrating reality Friday night as the host Cougars fell to Class 5A opponent Tuscarora, 31-21.
The new look Cougars knew they would have to play smash mouth football from the start in order to beat a tough Tuscarora team, but despite their best efforts, they could not overcome a sluggish start and several turnovers.
It is what it is, they just beat us up physically. They ran for 265 yards and we lost the turnover battle. We had four turnovers and had a field goal blocked. You are not going to win many football games when that happens,” said Lloyd.
Lloyd believes his team’s youth and inexperience was a contributing factor in the Week One loss. “We are playing seven new starters on each side of the football and this is their first real varsity action and it looked like it, plain and simple,” said Lloyd.
Kettle Run struggled to get anything going offensively in the game’s first two quarters. A lost fumble and an interception in the end zone killed promising drives in the second. Held scoreless in the first half, the Cougars got on the board in a flash when junior David Eldridge returned the second half kickoff for an 87-yard touchdown.
The Huskies recaptured the lead at 10-7 after their kicker, Chris Miller, made a 20-yard field goal. Attempting to tie the game at 10, Lloyd sent senior Evan Szklennik to attempt a 24-yarder but it was blocked by Tuscarora defensive back, Noah Mettenheimer.
Immediately after taking over possession from the blocked kick, Tuscarora’s star running back, Noah Reimers, made a fantastic 63-yard touchdown run. After taking the ball down the left sideline, Reimers followed a block, cut back towards the middle and made a dash for the right sideline where he went untouched. With about 10 yards left, Reimers stiff-armed a Kettle Run defender before trotting into the end zone.
Getting the ball back and looking to score, another KR drive was halted due to turnovers after Szklennik fumbled on the Cougars’ 20. Again Tuscarora wasted no time scoring as, two plays later, Mali Barker rushed up the middle for a touchdown pushing the Huskies’ lead to 24-7.
Kettle Run’s next drive went three-and-out and a bad punt gave the Huskies golden field position. On the first play of the drive Tuscarora senior quarterback Nick Azzarita found the end zone after running 30 yards on a draw play.
Down 31-7, things did not look good for the Cougars, but they found life in the fourth quarter.
With about seven minutes left, new KRHS quarterback and former Liberty Eagle Denzell Champion threw the first touchdown pass of his Cougar career when he connected with Eldridge for a 41-yard score. Eldridge leaped higher than the two Tuscarora defenders and snagged his first receiving touchdown of the fall.
The Cougars forced the Huskies to punt and Kettle Run caught a break when the Tuscarora punter muffed the punt and turned the ball over at the Tuscarora 20. Four plays later De Jackson scored on a short run to cut the lead to 10 points with three minutes left.
Failing to recover an onside kick, the Cougars forced a turnover on downs and got the ball back with two minutes to go but the rally fell short when Champion threw his second pick of the night.
While no Cougar was happy with the loss, Lloyd commended his team for not giving up.
“I like the way they competed. We were down 24 and they cut it to 10 with three minutes to play,” said Lloyd. “They are a tough school.”
The Cougars have plenty of time to refocus with an upcoming bye week. They travel to Millbrook on Sept. 13.
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