In­di­ans can’t over­come turnovers in loss to Co­bras

Ugly first half dooms North East as play­off pic­ture starts to clear

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

BEL AIR — Thanks in large part to a stub­born de­fen­sive ef­fort, the North East foot­ball team in­ex­pli­ca­bly trailed by only two scores af­ter elec­tric se­nior Jalen

Giles re­turned the open­ing kick­off of the sec­ond half nearly 80 yards to the end zone to cut Har­ford Tech’s lead to 177.

Of the In­di­ans’ five first-half pos­ses­sions Fri­day, three ended with a turnover deep in their own ter­ri­tory, while a fourth re­sulted in a blocked punt that gave the ball to the host Co­bras at the North East 22-yard line. De­spite the fa­vor­able field po­si­tion, the Har­ford County squad could man­age just two touch­downs and one field goal, in­clud­ing find­ing the end zone on a fourth-and-long play with roughly a minute re­main­ing in the sec­ond quar­ter.

“Our de­fense did keep us in it early,” North East head coach Chris Sch­le­ich said. “But you can’t turn the ball over and win in foot­ball, and we turned the ball over tonight.”

A fourth of­fen­sive mis­take, this time a fum­ble just three plays af­ter the In­di­ans re­cov­ered an on­side kick in the wake of Giles’ touch­down, turned mo­men­tum back to the op­po­si­tion. From there, Har­ford Tech raced away on the score­board, reach­ing the end zone on its next three pos­ses­sions to earn a 38-7 win over North East in Susque­hanna Di­vi­sion ac­tion.

“We weren’t play­ing with a lot of con­fi­dence. When you lack con­fi­dence, you get ner­vous and you make mis­takes, and that’s just what hap­pened,” Sch­le­ich said. “[Har­ford Tech] is a savvy play­off team. They’re used to com­ing at peo­ple hard and drilling them, and our kids kind of buck­led to them.”

Fol­low­ing the third-quar­ter turnover, Co­bras se­nior Jalen Danger­field con­cluded a 10-play, 54-yard drive with a 15-yard catch and run to the paint that made the score 24-7. He later sealed the con­test with an in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone on North East’s sec­ond-to-last drive of the game, re­turn­ing the ball to the 25-yard line and set­ting up a quick, twoplay, 75-yard pos­ses­sion that ended with a 60-yard touch­down run by Chuckie Brown to cap the scor­ing.

In be­tween, Har­ford Tech ju­nior re­ceiver Cur­tis McKis­set hauled in a 37-yard scor­ing pass from Ryan Hunt that in­creased the ad­van­tage to 31-7.

“We knew we couldn’t un­der­es­ti­mate them, we knew they had tal­ent. We were a lot more un­pre­pared than we thought we were and it showed in the first half,” Danger­field said. “Half­time, it wasn’t a cel­e­bra­tion, it was a fo­cus of what we can do to be­come a bet­ter team be­cause the score should have been a lot big­ger than what it ac­tu­ally was. We came out at half­time with fire, the hurry up of­fense, and started play­ing like we know we can play.”

Giles cut into the deficit with a se­ries of shifty moves on the game’s big­gest play of the night.

Set­tled in near his own 20yard line, the se­nior fielded the open­ing kick­off of the third quar­ter on a bounce, made a de­fender miss and knifed across the field, be­fore rac­ing down the far side­line for the score.

“I came out and ran fast. I saw a hole to the left and just hit it,” Giles said. “I just took off.”

The touch­down pro­vided a glim­mer of hope for a North East squad that dug it­self a ma­jor hole to open the con­test.

Af­ter Har­ford Tech punted both its open­ing pos­ses­sions of the first quar­ter, Giles fum­bled a hand­off that gave the Co­bras the ball back at the North East 36-yard line, set­ting up an even­tual 9-yard touch­down pass from Hunt to Jeremiah Minter to open the scor­ing.

North East ju­nior Eli­jah Perry, mak­ing just his sec­ond start at quar­ter­back fol­low­ing a stand­out de­but a week ago against Pat­ter­son Mill, had a third-down pass on the en­su­ing drive tipped and in­ter­cepted, lead­ing to an 18-yard field goal by Tyler Long.

Long then missed a 13yard field goal af­ter the In­di­ans de­fense pro­duced a goal line stand in the af­ter­math of the blocked punt. The Co­bras’ La­day Cooper later scored a touch­down with one minute re­main­ing in the half af­ter Perry turned the ball over on an in­ter­cep­tion near mid­field.

“We just came out and forced turnovers and do what we do,” Danger­field said. “The de­fense stepped up to­day.”

The In­di­ans (3-3 over­all, 2-1 di­vi­sion) en­tered vy­ing to snap Har­ford Tech’s length reg­u­lar-sea­son win­ning streak. With the win, the Co­bras (6-0, 2-0), have now won 16 reg­u­lar sea­son con­tests dat­ing back to the start of last year.

Har­ford Tech, which ad­vanced to last year’s 2A state semi­fi­nals, is in prime po­si­tion to earn an­other play­off berth af­ter it qual­i­fied for the post­sea­son for the first time in pro­gram his­tory in 2016.

North East, mean­while, suf­fered a ma­jor blow to its post­sea­son as­pi­ra­tions. With four weeks re­main­ing, the In­di­ans sit be­hind at least six other teams, in­clud­ing the Co­bras, in the race for the 2A East’s four play­off spots.

“Coach Sch­le­ich came in and made this pro­gram way bet­ter than it was be­fore,” Giles said. “It’s go­ing to be hard, but if we knock the board out the rest of the sea­son, we still might be able to go. We’re go­ing to try our hard­est.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOR­DAN SCHATZ

A group of North East play­ers re­act to the score late in the fourth quar­ter of a 38-7 road loss to Har­ford Tech on Fri­day.

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