By Jef Rietsma
Boosted by a pair of Ricky Clark touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Schoolcraft’s varsity football team overcame critical miscues and a deficit late in the game Aug. 28 to notch a season-opening win over league foe Parchment, 27-14.
It wasn’t a pretty victory, head coach Terry Haas said, but Schoolcraft’s sixth consecutive triumph over the Panthers still counts in the W column.
“We’ll take ‘em any way we can get ‘em, I guess,” Haas said. “Maybe a little too tough on the heart, but it’s a win and a good way to start the season.”
The Eagles relied on some big plays in the second quarter from Clark, Josh Zemek, and Zac Sharp to hold a six-point lead at the half.
After a scoreless first quarter, during which Schoolcraft’s offense had the ball for just three plays, the Panthers took advantage of a short field and scored on a five-yard run to cap a 41-yard, 15-play drive that ate more than seven minutes off the clock.
Schoolcraft answered on the subsequent possession with an 80-yard series that saw Aaron Lenning score on a 10-yard run with about six minutes to go before halftime. The series featured runs of 15 yards by Clark, 26 yards by Zemek and 12 yards by Ryan Landis.
Haas said the drive was critical because it came on the heels of Parchment scoring for an early lead.
Parchment fielded the ensuing possession at its own 34 yard line. The first of two key fourth-down stops on the night helped set the tone for Schoolcraft’s defense. The four-and-out was made possible by a stop on fourth and four by Thomas Meadows and Chadd Marks.
With the change of possession, Schoolcraft marched 42 yards in seven plays to take a 12-6 halftime lead. The series highlights included a 14-yard run by Zac Sharp and a dash from 1-yard out for Zemek.
Parchment picked up momentum in the third quarter by virtue of a 10-play scoring drive and two-point conversion for a 14-12 lead. Schoolcraft didn’t help its cause by fumbling away its only two possessions of the quarter.
Haas said with Constantine on deck the following weekend, Schoolcraft is going to have to play less sloppy.
“We have to clean it up, we can’t have the turnovers we had this week,” Haas said. “Certainly when you turn it over three times in a game you put a lot of pressure on your defense and you need to avoid that. I mean, we only ran three (offensive) plays in the first quarter and we fumbled the ball away our only two possessions in the third quarter, so our defense spent a lot of time out on the field tonight.”
Things looked grim for Schoolcraft after it bobbled a punt return attempt to open the fourth quarter and Parchment recovered the ball just 12 yards from the end zone. With a commanding lead on the line, Parchment, however, failed to capitalize and was stopped on four plays with a net gain of three yards.
“When we fumbled the ball on our own 12 in the fourth quarter and our defense stepped up and got the stop, that was the turning point of the game,” Haas said. “We came back and completed a couple passes . . . we hadn’t thrown much all night and we were able to stretch the field a little bit on them.”
The 91-yard scoring drive was completed in just nine plays and in a little more than three minutes. Clark hauled in a pair of catches for gains of 16 and 11 yards, he scored the go-ahead touchdown from one yard out and converted on the two-point attempt for a 20-14 lead.
Schoolcraft sealed the game when Thomas Meadows recovered the ensuing kickoff, which was mishandled by Parchment’s special-teams unit. The Eagles marched 40 yards in six plays – including a 19-yard touchdown run by Clark on fourth and four – for the insurance touchdown. Pete Schultz booted the extra point to cap the scoring for the night.
“We got some confidence, we got the ball, we moved it on them and we executed some drives,” Haas said. “Ricky’s a real good player and Zac (Sharp) had a nice game, too. Those two complement each other.”
Sharp nabbed an interception on Parchment’s subsequent possession to seal the victory.
Haas said he was impressed with Parchment’s size, but its lack of stamina proved costly in the long run.
“I told our defensive coach I think they’re not in as good of shape as us and we could wear them down,” Haas said. “We kept preaching that to the kids all week long and in the fourth quarter we saw that.”
Already thin on bodies, the Eagles will hope for full recoveries by Steven Ludlow and Ryan Landis. Ludlow left the game early and Landis twice exited the field with a limp.
Constantine hosts the Sept. 5 game. It won a 39-0 game over Delton Kellogg Aug. 28. Schoolcraft has a two-game win streak against Constantine.