Darlington gets shut out in season opener against Cheraw
By Drake Horton
CHERAW — The Darlington Falcons 2019 football season got off to a rocky start on the road, losing 28-0 to the Cheraw Braves.
After playing in a two-quarter jamboree the week before, the Falcons officially kicked the new football season off this past Friday night with new head coach Raymond Jennings and while there was promise at times on the defense, the offense is still trying to find an identity.
Behind a steady diet of Javorious Williams running the ball, Darlington got in the Cheraw red zone twice, but each time the Falcons’ drive stalled.
“I just came out here and tried to work hard,” Williams said. “Just keep working hard; got to keep working hard.”
In the third quarter Darlington made it to Cheraw’s nine-yard line and then in the fourth the Falcons made it all the way the Braves’ three-yard line before failing on fourth down.
Now that this game is out of the way, Jennings and his staff will go back, see where they go from here offensively.
“We got a big back and we got to try to get him downhill; that’s about it,” Jennings said. “Exchanges in the backfield are important; keeping the ball off the ground is important. We’ve got to be able to get first downs and we didn’t do it.
“I kept telling the offensive line the whole time, ‘Let’s just think about moving the chains’ because when you are young D (defense) and special teams and thin it will keep certain guys off the field so we got to go back and look at film and focus on it. But I learned the same thing I knew before the game, we got to protect the football, we’re not that good, we got to move the chains, we’re not that good, we’re not that explosive.”
Defensively, however, it was not as bad as it looked. Yes, the 28 points are not the best looking when it comes to the eyes of fans, but the way those 28 points came is more telling than the number itself.
“It was 21-0 in the first half, in some tough situations; to me that is what I coach, though,” Jennings said. “I tell them about sudden change, turnovers and things like that, but we gave up 21 points in the first half, we played on our side of the 30 quite a few times, punt team didn’t help us, turnovers didn’t help us, but we went out there and we thought we played well in spurts.”
First, two of those touchdowns came on just one-play drives, the first in the second quarter for 65 yards and second in the third quarter for 53 yards.
Second, after a Darlington punt in the first quarter, Cheraw returned the ball 30 yards all the way to the Falcons’ 10-yard line, giving the defense an almost impossible task of keeping the Braves out of the end zone and just two plays later that is where they found themselves, increasing their lead to 14-0.
The only truly sustained drive the Braves did against the Falcons defense was in the opening quarter on the opening drive when it marched right down the field, putting together a six-play drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown run. After scoring 21 in the first half, Cheraw only scored seven in the second half and that lone score came in the third quarter.
One of the biggest things that hints there are positive things in the future for Darlington is the youth.
“You look up and I know we were starting two freshmen tonight on defense and we looked up one time and we had four out there on the field,” Jennings said.
Most coaches always say they learn the most between game one and game two and Jennings is definitely feeling that way. With so much still unknown, with the new staff, the young freshmen playing and getting used to new systems that some of these players have not run before, he said, this game was definitely a learning experience.
“I knew it in the third quarter that we just need to coach our way through this game and learn from it because you learn a lot from that first game and on and just don’t want the same mistakes to beat us again, so I had to put my ego in my back pocket and put the guys in position and I thought they did a good job of making plays,” Jennings said. “(Cheraw) just kept us off balance a little bit on the perimeter game and we just never really got going offensively and the kicking game didn’t help us.”
This week, Darlington gets to play its first game at home as the Falcons take on the West Florence Knights.