The Kent Island Bay Times - - Sports -

while fresh­man quar­ter­back Matthew Burn­side con­tin­ued the strong start to his var­sity ca­reer with two more pass­ing touch­downs.

“Just got to do my job,” John­son said. “I got coaches that say, ‘Run the ball like a man’, that’s what I at­tempted to do. There was one where I ended up fum­bling, I still owe the coach 20 for that, but I just got to do my job, do my best.

Added Burn­side: “Just look­ing to do my job and make my team­mates bet­ter. The team­mates played great, ex­e­cuted well to get us a good win.”

The Bucs elected to re­ceive the open­ing kick­off, but af­ter three straight John­son runs, light­ning halted play, and all play­ers, per­son­nel and spec­ta­tors were or­dered off the field.

The game re­sumed at 7:45 p.m. fol­low­ing a 40-minute stop­page, a blink of an eye com­pared to the two-plus hour de­lay the sides had to en­dure be­fore the 2015 date at Stevensville.

Kent Is­land ended up punt­ing its first pos­ses­sion once play re­sumed, and the Clip­pers quickly cashed in, se­nior run­ning back SaQuan Cot­ton (16 car­ries, 148 yards) putting Ben­nett on the board with a 31-yard touch­down run on fourth-and-3. Sure­footed kicker Bradley Board­man missed the point-af­ter at­tempt, leav­ing the Clip­pers up 6-0.

A scary mo­ment fol­lowed on the en­su­ing kick­off, when Kent Is­land se­nior Tre Thomas was horsec­ol­lar tack­led by Ben­nett se­nior Jahryn Long on the Bucs’ side­line dur­ing a nice re­turn. Thomas re­mained down for sev­eral min­utes while be­ing at­tended to by the trainer and coach­ing staff, but walked to the bench un­der his own power, avoid­ing any se­ri­ous in­jur y.

Fired up about Long’s per­ceived dirty tackle — and the ill-ad­vised cel­e­bra­tion that fol­lowed — the Bucs cap­i­tal­ized on the 15-yard penalty on the next play, John­son burst­ing through the line, break­ing three fee­ble arm tack­les and dash­ing 41 yards to pay­dirt. Bucs ju­nior kicker Joseph Gar­vey point-af­ter at­tempt was off, keep­ing the game tied 6-6.

John­son posted 190 yards and three touch­downs against Snow Hill, while Burn­side went 5 for 5 for 81 yards and the two scores in his var­sity de­but. Thomas is also off to a fly­ing start, hav­ing hauled in Burn­side’s two pass­ing scores in the win over the Ea­gles while also re­turn­ing an in­ter­cep­tion in the same game for a TD.

“Matt Burn­side and Ke’Juan John­son are young but are very ta­lented play­ers who have the abil­ity to be big im­pact play­ers,” Bucs head coach Damian Fer­rag­amo said. “Tre Thomas is our se­nior leader as far as skill po­si­tions go. He is a threat to score ev­ery time he touches the ball.”

The big play again bit the Bucs, how­ever, as Cot­ton scored his sec­ond straight long touch­down just two snaps later, this one dou­bling his 31-yard scam­per for an even 62 yards, Board­man sail­ing the PAT through for the Clip­pers’ fi­nal lead at 13-6, with 2 min­utes, 30 sec­onds left to play in the first pe­riod.

“It was two good teams, slug­ging it out,” Ben­nett head coach Glenn Gib­son said. “I told my guys, ‘You got bet­ter to­day against a re­ally good foot­ball team’. You proved to your­selves, and ev­ery­one else, that you can play against any­one in this league; now you just got to build on it.”

A punt lofted by the Bucs’ Taquan Court­ney pinned the Clip­pers on their own 6, and a Cot­ton run was nul­li­fied on a hands-to-the-face flag. Punt­ing inches from his own end line two plays later, Board­man stepped out of bounds un­der pres­sure from Kent Is­land, re­sult­ing in a safety to trim Ben­nett’s lead to 13-8.

Kent Is­land went ahead for good on the next drive, John­son and ju­nior Kenny Guy­ton (eight car­ries, 56 yards) chew­ing up the yards be­fore John­son fin­ished it off with a 5-yard TD run. Gar­vey missed the PAT, as Kent Is­land nudged ahead, 14-13.

“I was just proud of their re­siliency, we knew it was go­ing to be tough,” Fer­rag­amo said. “We’ve been very suc­cess­ful against Ben­nett in the hand­ful of years since I’ve been here, but, if you take the two names off the top of the ros­ters, and you look at the tal­ent, we were the un­der­dog tonight.

“I’m just proud we kept fight­ing and found a way,” Fer­rag­amo added.

It was 21-13 when Burn­side lofted a per­fect fade to the left cor­ner to Thomas, the third-and-14 con­ver­sion net­ting a 26yard touch­down. Burn­side tossed an­other touch­down af­ter Long fum­bled the en­su­ing kick­off, an­other strike on third down con­nect­ing for 12 yards to se­nior wide­out Chase Cooney, cou­pled with Gar­vey’s kick for a 28-13 Kent Is­land at the break.

“The dam­age ra­tio on those four were pretty big,” Fer­rag­amo said of Burn­side’s two com­ple­tions on four to­tal pass at­tempts.

Un­able to spread the field while re­peat­edly start­ing deep in its own end, Ben­nett never re­cov­ered.

“It was a weird game, but it was two good teams forc­ing each other to make mis­takes,” Gib­son said. “What re­ally changed the game was the sec­ond quar­ter, with the field po­si­tion. We kept get­ting pinned, we can’t open up our of­fense.

“We’ll learn from this as a coach­ing staff,” Gib­son added. “We got to open up, turn it loose. That’s what hap­pens Week 2, when you’ve had a rough week of prac­tice. You got to tip your hat to Kent Is­land and Fer­rag­amo. They’re a tough, hard­nosed foot­ball team, and you can’t mis­takes.”

Clip­pers se­nior quar­ter­back Con­nor Scholl shaved Kent Is­land’s lead to 28-20 late in the third, hit­ting sopho­more Micah Red­dish on a busted play for an 8-yard TD. John­son coun­tered with his third touch­down early in the fourth, a 1-yard plunge to make it 35-20, Bucs.

“You just to try your best to stay fo­cused,” John­son said. “Ev­ery once in a while, we have a cou­ple of play­ers who are get­ting their heads out of the game, we just tr y to stay fo­cused as much as pos­si­ble.

“We got tal­ent ev­ery­where, we just use our tal­ent as best as pos­si­ble,” John­son added. “We knew it wasn’t go­ing to be easy, didn’t want to take them for granted.”

Ben­nett pulled within one score a fi­nal time late in the fourth pe­riod, Scholl tak­ing ad­van­tage on Kent Is­land’s lone turnover game — a lost John­son fum­ble deep in Clip­per ter­ri­tory — by find­ing Cot­ton for 20 and then scor­ing a 4-yard keeper.

In­tent on run­ning out the rest of the game clock, the Bucs were af­forded a clear av­enue on their fi­nal pos­ses­sion when Ben­nett se­nior Cas­sius Cottman jumped off­sides on a hard count by Burn­side, giv­ing Kent Is­land a fresh set of downs af­ter the third­down in­frac­tion.

The drive didn’t go much fur­ther af­ter three short John­son car­ries, but Gar­vey iced the tri­umph with a 28-yard field goal with 56 sec­onds re­main­ing. An on­side kick gave the Buc­ca­neers the ball back, and Burn­side’s kneel­down ended it.

The Bucs fin­ished with 262 yards on 48 plays from scrim­mage, a healthy 5.5 yards per snap. The Clip­pers amassed 202 on 34 plays, out­gained 170-162 on the ground by John­son alone. Ben­nett com­mit­ted seven penal­ties for 70 yards, the Bucs were flagged five times to­tal­ing 35 yards.

“They are ex­tremely ta­lented,” Fer­rag­amo said of the Clip­pers. “We made some big spe­cial teams plays, we made some ter­ri­ble spe­cials teams plays to­day. We got a turnover af­ter we scored, gave us a tremen­dous amount of mo­men­tum; we kicked a field goal at the end that put it out of reach; kind of a mis­take on­side kick that gave us the ball.

“For a Week 2 game, this is as close to a play­off at­mos­phere and feel to it, that I’ve ever been in,” Fer­rag­amo added. “We are about as young as young can be. We got a young quar­ter­back, we got a young tail­back, and those guys re­ally grew up a lot to­day.”

Fol­low on Twit­ter @Ay­man_S­tarDem. Email

at aalam@star­dem.com

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