Kent Island bolsters top standing in 2A East, dampens hopes for Easton
KI 14 — Easton 7
EASTON — The one-point loss to North Caroline High was tough, but taking the defending Class 2A East Region champions down to the wire stoked optimism for a season just getting started.
A six-point setback to Queen Anne’s in Week 6 was also difficult, though, there was still opportunity to squeeze into this year’s fourteam regional postseason field.
Easton High’s football team still has a glimmer of hope for gaining entry into the playoffs, but Friday night’s 14-7 loss to unbeaten Kent Island may have been the Warriors’ most agonizing near miss of the season.
“All three losses against playoff teams with one score or less,” Easton head coach Matt Griffith said, referencing a 49-48 loss to North Caroline, a 26-20 loss to Queen Anne’s and Friday’s setback. “You would think at some point we’d get one of them to bounce our way and it just hasn’t happened.”
The most notable bounce that didn’t go Easton’s way against Kent Island (8-0) came with about 7 minutes remaining in the third quarter. With the Bucs having just taken a 14-7 lead, the Warriors looked ready to possibly pull even, driving from their 32-yard line to Kent Island’s 3, the big play coming when Brandon Booze turned Mason Ledford’s short pass into a 37yard gain.
Ledford crashed into the line on consecutive carries, the second putting Easton inside the 1. But on third down, Zack Strand slammed into the right side of the line, bounced to the outside and fumbled. Easton wideout T.J. Nixon had a chance to recover, but the ball slipped away and Kent Island’s Brandon Galloway fell on it at the 2-yard line with 6 minutes, 49 seconds remaining.
“T.J. did have his hands on it,” Griffith said. “I thought he was scooping it up to take it in, and then it squirted out and a Kent Island kid jumped on it. Ball doesn’t bounce our way, they get it, take advantage of it.”
Easton (5-3), which allowed eight first downs and stopped Kent Island on 9 of 12 third-down attempts, forced a three-and-out and regained possession at the Bucs’ 40 with 4:07 left.
Kent Island, which also yielded just eight first downs and stopped Easton on 8 of 14 third-down tries, watched Ledford throw for no gain on first down. Jordan Walker sacked Easton’s junior quarterback for a 9-yard loss on second. Ledford then arced a pass to an open Tre’ Thomas running a seam pattern down the middle of the field, but the speedy sophomore couldn’t make the catch. On fourth-and-19, Ledford rolled left and was tackled for a 2-yard loss by Austin Ryan.
“Defensively we were just making sure that we could cut off their pass,” Kent Island linebacker Mike Scott said. “We kept more guys outside than inside for the run. I think we did a great job of (stopping) that outside run and making tackles.”
The Buccaneers ran out the remaining 2:36, with Braden Doyle (20 carries, game-high 128 yards) carrying for a first down before an Easton offsides penalty gave Kent Island another first, allowing Bucs’ quarterback Jordan Marciano to kneel down twice to end the game.
“They’re a good defense,” said Griffith after his team — which came in averaging 35.8 points a game — was held to its lowest point total of the season. “They do a good job of putting pressure and still maintaining their responsibilities. And that’s why they’re good.”
Said Kent Island head coach Damian Ferragamo: “What we’ve done for years is we try to take what you like to do and take it away from them, and make you do something else. That’s the same thing Easton did to us today on their defense. It’s just sound football.
“So that’s what we did,” Ferragamo added. “We tried to make them run the ball. They had some success, especially running the quarterback today. He made some big plays. But our defense is the epitome of a team defense. If they all do your job, we’re a pretty tough team to score against.”
Though a rainy first-half didn’t appear to hamper Ledford, who for the game completed 15 of 24 for 178 yards, a touchdown and one interception, Kent Island held the Bayside Conference’s passing leader to just one passing touchdown.
“It didn’t limit him too much,” Ferragamo said of Ledford and the early rain. “He was zinging them in there. He just didn’t have the touchdowns. And he threw a touchdown pass. I think he was on. I don’t think this bothered him even a little bit.”
After Doyle fumbled on the game’s first play from scrimmage, Easton was in the end zone in two plays. Ledford threw to Tahjiere Nixon, who dodged and raced down the sideline for a 37-yard scoring play. Emma Skoglund’s extra-point kick gave the Warriors a 7-0 lead 54 seconds into the game.
Kent Island, which came into the game averaging 38.4 points an outing and was held to its lowest point total of the year, watched its first four possessions end with a fumble and three punts, the second of which was blocked by Strand.
The Bucs looked ready to tie the game late in the first half. Starting from its 43, Kent Island reached the Warrior 5 for a first-and-goal, when Marciano and Ryan connected for a 18-yard pass play. Ryan bulled to the 1 on first down, but was then stuffed on successive runs, which included Carter Taylor and Brandon Spearman tackling him on third down. An offsides penalty on Kent Island, pushed the ball to the 6, setting up Bert Schrecongost’s 22-yard field goal with 1:26 remaining.
Doyle intercepted Ledford on Easton’s next play. Five plays later, Schrecongost hammered a 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds left in the half to draw Kent Island within 7-6.
“I know when we’re driving down the field, if we don’t score, it’s my job to pick them up,” Schrecongost said. “And when I pick ‘em up it feels good.
“But there are three parts to every kick,” Schrecongost added. “The snap, the hold and the kick. I’m just the one that gets to finish it off. Those two guys, (snapper) Jake Hipps and (holder) Selby Scaggs deserve a lot of credit.”
Easton maintained its onepoint lead, but with 15 seconds remaining in the third