Fum­bles costly for Lions in loss to Knights

Queen Anne’s mounts rally in the sec­ond half, but turnover is­sues loom large as team falls to 3-1

Record Observer - - Sports - By AY­MAN ALAM aalam@star­dem.com

Sus­sex Cen­tral 29 Queen Anne’s 14

GE­ORGE­TOWN, DEL — Donny Graef is a coach span­ning many gen­er­a­tions of high school foot­ball play­ers, and the gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ence be­tween the long­time coach and the cur­rent Queen Anne’s County crop was ev­i­dent fol­low­ing the lat­est game.

Graef told his team af­ter Fri­day evening’s 29-14, out-of-con­fer­ence loss to Sus­sex Cen­tral that the pre­vi­ously un­beaten Lions had just been served some hum­ble pie, which Graef joked after­wards many play­ers may have thought was an item on a menu, not an age-old, oft-used term in the world of sports.

The Golden Knights served up that hum­ble pie through­out most of a con­test that will ul­ti­mately bear only in­tan­gi­ble mean­ings for both squads when it comes to play­off seed­ing, but Queen Anne’s (31) did close the gap in the sec­ond half af­ter fall­ing be­hind 27-0, and the few pos­i­tives were worth fo­cus­ing on for Graef.

“Love ‘em,” Graef said of play­ing the non-Bay­side Con­fer­ence game against a strong Delaware pro­gram. “This game, maybe not tonight, but some­where along the way is go­ing to pay a lot of div­i­dends. It’s just great to be able to play a game like this. Ob­vi­ously, we’d like to come out on top, and I also think a lot of the times you learn a lot more from a loss than a win any way.

“What it boils down to is, you’re go­ing to have to beat (North) Caro­line, you’re go­ing to have to beat Kent Is­land along with every­one else on the sched­ule,” Graef added. “Win or lose, it’s a plus play­ing a team like that, be­cause it’s go­ing to make us bet­ter.”

Sus­sex Cen­tral, which has yet to play a Delaware Divi­sion I game, im­proved to 2-1, get­ting 132 yards on only four car­ries from se­nior tail­back Ken­drique Nocks, who notched touch­down runs of 80 and 45 yards. Tim­o­thy Jones

also broke a 30-yard TD scam­per for the Knights, while se­nior quar­ter­back Brady Bowden con­nected with Mark Tol­son on a 70yard catch-and-run for a score.

“They’ve got a great de­fense, and we couldn’t run too well be­tween tack­les,” Sus­sex Cen­tral head coach John Wells said. “We tried to spread ‘em out, do a lit­tle shot­gun, mix it up some and get them chas­ing. The cou­ple of big plays were the dif­fer­ence, of course.

“Ut­most re­spect for the pro­gram,” Wells added of Queen Anne’s, which ran away with a 2015 matchup, 42-19. “Coach Graef does a great job, and last year, they were phe­nom­e­nal. I think have a great chance of com­ing out of the Bay­sides.”

The game was score­less through the first pe­riod, the sides trad­ing punts on the first four pos­ses­sions be­fore the Lions turned it over on downs on the Sus­sex 30, se­nior run­ning back Jykel Gar­ner (11 car­ries, 68 yards) get­ting stuffed well short on a fourth-down carry.

The Knights took over on their own 29, and Hol­land Ful­ton was dropped for a 9-yard loss by se­nior line­backer Jor­dan Wilmer and then stopped for no gain, set­ting up a 3rd-and-19. Sus­sex had mostly stayed with the run to that point, and the pa­tience paid off when Nocks burst through the line and raced four Lions into the end zone, dis­cov­er­ing an­other gear dur­ing the sec­ond half of the 80-yard TD dash.

Chris­tian Castillo’s point-af­ter kick made it 7-0, Knights, and the lead swelled to 21-0 by half­time on Tol­son’s touch­down grab and Jones’ 30-yard run.

“We had film, and were def­i­nitely aware of what they did, but we just didn’t play fun­da­men­tal foot­ball,” Wilmer said. “We were slug­gish ear­lier this week in prac­tice, and we came out like we prac­ticed.

“Af­ter this tough loss, we need to hold our heads up, come out Mon­day, well Satur­day ac­tu­ally, it starts to­mor­row, and learn how to play hard and strong,” Wilmer added.

Sus­sex went up 27-0 early in the third on Nocks’ sec­ond big run, the 45-yard ven­ture com­ing on the heels of a 20-yard Bow­denTol­son hookup; Castillo’s kick was blocked.

Queen Anne’s sec­ond of three lost fum­bles of the night fol­lowed, this one coughed up on a sec­ond­down snap in Knight ter­ri­tory re­cov­ered by John Mor­ris. The Lions also yielded a safety for the game’s fi­nal points and turned it over on downs on two drives.

“Turnovers re­ally ended up haunt­ing us,” Graef said. “Turnovers are part of the game. We usu­ally tell the kids, 100 times, that if you com­mit more of it than the other team, the chances to win are di­min­ish­ing.”

Queen Anne’s fi­nally broke the scor­ing drought with 2 min­utes, 44 sec­onds left in the third quar­ter, se­nior QB Mike D’An­gelo (4-for-9 pass­ing, 70 yards) find­ing Wy­att Pin­der wide open on a fade to the right corner of the end zone for a 17-yard TD. The 70-yard drive was kept alive by some heady run­ning from Dion­dre Collins (4-48) and a 32-yard grab by Tyler Bon­ner, who one-handed a near in­ter­cep­tion away be­fore fight­ing into Sus­sex ter­ri­tory.

“The of­fen­sive line may have been play­ing a lit­tle bit bet­ter,” Graef said of Queen Anne’s in-game turn­around. “They must have been do­ing a bet­ter job be­cause they were re­ally stag­nant, wasn’t get­ting a push at all in the first half.

“If I had to pick one thing that was dif­fer­ent, it was the of­fen­sive line,” Graef added. “I like the kids’ ef­fort in the sec­ond half, thought it was a big char­ac­ter test for them, and they came out and played hard.”

The Lions’ de­fense also stiff­ened once fall­ing be­hind by four touch­downs.

Af­ter yield­ing nearly 270 yards of­fense once Nocks crossed the end zone on his sec­ond TD, Queen Anne’s lim­ited the Knights to less than 60 yards the rest of the way, al­low­ing the of­fense to chip away and make a game of it.

“I think we just came out and played with a bet­ter mind­set,” Wilmer said. “Sec­ond half, we came out with a big­ger heart, and played foot­ball. “We re­ally had to elim­i­nate the big plays.

“I find it fun, play­ing some­one dif­fer­ent than some­one in the Bay­sides,” Wilmer added. “You get to learn some­thing about a dif­fer­ent team.”

The Knights were al­ready scuf­fling when the Lions got on the board, and fur­ther opened the doors for a po­ten­tial Queen Anne’s come­back when jaw­ing be­tween play­ers led to a 15-yard per­sonal foul penalty on Sus­sex deep in its ter­ri­tory.

The in­frac­tion stalled the drive. Sus­sex punter Jor­dan Dor­man had to set up just short of the goal line on a 4th-and-24 at­tempt, which landed on the Sus­sex 31 af­ter Wilmer ap­peared to get a piece of the ball while si­mul­ta­ne­ously lev­el­ing Dor­man.

Collins ripped a 26yard run on the en­su­ing snap, and two plays later, D’An­gelo was in pay­dirt on a 1-yard sneak, cou­pling with Metrinko’s kick to pull Queen Anne’s within 27-14 with nearly a full quar­ter still left to play.

“We’ve played two tough teams — In­ter­boro (a 2016 loss to the south­ern Penn­syl­va­nia school) and Queen Anne’s — top-notch teams,” Wells said. “I told our kids, I think Queen Anne’s and In­ter­boro can play with any­one in our state, and that’s not knock­ing any­body in our state.

“We knew what they had up front, and their skill was as good as any­one on our sched­ule,” Wells added.

The vis­i­tors would get no closer, as Sus­sex’s Cris­tian Tor­res re­cov­ered an­other fum­bled snap to off­set a Knights turnover on downs. The turnover ar­rived on a 3rd-and-2 on the Sus­sex 39, with more than 8 min­utes to go.

“That last fum­ble killed us,” Graef said.

Dor­man later pinned Queen Anne’s on its 2 on a spec­tac­u­lar punt on 4thand-23 from the Lions 40. Two plays later, Kasim Lewis sacked D’An­gelo deep in the end zone for a safety to cap the scor­ing.

“If you turn the ball over, it’s go­ing to be a long night,” Graef said. “I’m re­ally happy with the way the kids played in the sec­ond half, mov­ing the ball a lit­tle bit bet­ter.

“First half, I don’t know who that was, but give Sus­sex Cen­tral all the credit,” Graef added. “They stuck us, and we couldn’t get any push on the line, just give them a lot of credit.”

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Ay­man_S­tarDem. Email me at aalam@star­dem.com

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