October 14, 2013

Friday Night Rewind: Dalton’s defensive scheme made Bruins a run team

The Daily Citizen

— Northwest Whitfield High School’s football team is well known for its spread offense and passing game.

But against their biggest rivals, the Bruins relied mostly on the rushing attack.

Northwest’s play selection was unbalanced in the 31-28 loss Friday against Dalton, calling twice as many run plays as pass plays. In other games from Friday: Christian Heritage (5-2, 2-1 Sub-region 6A-A) couldn’t hold an early lead and fell 18-14 against Darlington; Southeast Whitfield (3-3, 1-1 Sub-region 7B-4A) lost 35-20 at Ridgeland; and Murray County (1-5, 0-3 Region 7-2A) fell behind big early and lost 62-14 at Model.

The Bruins (5-1, 1-1 Sub-region 7B-4A) ran the ball 40 times for 201 yards. Northwest only threw it 20 times for 156 yards.

Bruins coach Josh Robinson said balance was sought, but the Catamounts (4-2, 2-0) protected against the pass all game and allowed for more positive plays on the ground.

“You have to take what is offered to you,” Robinson said. “What they were offering to us was to run the ball. Our offensive line ... I felt like may have played their best game and maybe the best game in two years.”

Northwest running back Jacob Webb had his busiest game of the season, carrying 31 times for 151 yards and scoring two touchdowns.

“He’s averaging 12-14 carries per game, and all of the sudden he has to run however many,” Robinson said. “He did an outstanding job. That is something going forward that is good for our football team. We’ve run the football effectively all year. Well, now, we’ve run it against a really good team that is hard nosed and our offensive line did a good job.”

• After a nearly flawless first half against Darlington, Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag’s high powered Lions offense was held at bay in the second half against a stingy Tigers defense, which forced a fumble late in the third and held the hosts to zero second-half points.

The Lions came into the Darlington game averaging 37.3 points per game, while holding opponents to 10.8. Although the defense held the Tigers for the majority of four quarters, it was Darlington’s offense that made plays when it needed to down the stretch.

“It came down to a couple of plays here and there,” Poag said. “And we just didn’t make those plays. I keep telling them that (down the stretch) all the games will be like this, especially once you get into the playoffs.”

Senior quarterback Trevor Brown was also limited to 10 of 15 passing for 161 yards and one rushing touchdown, well below his season passing yards per game average of 238 and three touchdowns per game. Brown did make some big time plays for the Lions, twice finding his favorite target, Nich Bartley, on critical down and yardage plays.

• Dalton became the first team this season to win a turnover battle with Northwest.

In the Bruins’ previous five games, they forced more turnovers than giving up. The Cats didn’t turn the ball over once, and cornerback Jordon McKinney was the hero on the game’s lone turnover.

After a 17-yard fake-punt run on fourth down from Clay Phillips, Northwest set up at the Dalton 25 yard line midway through the second quarter. With a 14-7 lead, the Bruins and quarterback Caleb Shiflett wanted to regain the two-touchdown lead they held in the first quarter, and Shiflett lofted a pass to wide receiver Andy Whisenant. Playing single coverage, McKinney leaped in front of Whisenant and made the interception.

Cats coach Matt Land said his defense also has been opportunistic this season.

“When it was time for us to make what we call a ‘my-ball call,’ we had to make a big play,” Land said. “Big players have to make big plays in big games, and we had one right there.”

• A month ago, Murray County won its first football game on the field since 2010, a 14-12 win over Gordon Central.

In the three games since then, and including Friday night, the Indians have been outscored 159-27.

When asked what the positives were from Friday’s loss, Murray County coach Chad Brewer responded, “Nothing.”

“Nothing was a positive Friday night,” he added. “It was a step back for our program, and I’m the one that is 100 percent responsible for it.”

Was winning one game enough to make the players content?

“I don’t know,” Brewer said. “That is a good question. I hope that has not happened. At certain times, I do wonder if that was enough and I hope it’s not because we have four more games left in the season and we have to prepare for them and play with a lot more passion and pride than we did Friday night.”

• Southeast once again fell behind by more than a score, and this week the Raiders couldn’t rally for the win.

Southeast trailed LaFayette 14-3 two Fridays ago but came back for a 31-17 victory. After falling behind 28-7 against Ridgeland, the Raiders scored two straight touchdowns and tried for an onside kick to tie the game before the end of regulation.

When the Panthers recovered — and scored the game’s final touchdown — Southeast was left with a 1-1 sub-region record and a long way to go to reach the Class 4A state playoffs.

“We just decided to turn it on too late against Ridgeland,” Raiders coach Sean Gray said. “We dug too big of a hole to get out of this time.”

In the first quarter, quarterback Will Swantic left the field with an undisclosed injury. He returned but received another injury in the fourth quarter after a play near the goal line. He didn’t return after the second injury, but Gray said he believes Swantic will be available for next week’s homecoming game against Heritage-Catoosa.