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.”
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