Darlington squanders opportunities and in doing so squanders the game
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
Hartsville – Missed opportunities came back to haunt Darlington once again as the Falcons dropped their last regular season game of the year, losing 35-3 to the Hartsville Red Foxes.
The start of the game could not have been scripted any better by Darlington’s defensive coaches as the Falcons forced fumbles on Hartsville’s first three offensive possessions of the game.
Unfortunately the offensive side of the Darlington team did not get the memo, getting only a 20-yard field goal from Henrique Pedro after starting its first three offensive possessions of the game inside Red Fox territory.
“We made some mistakes and if we want to get to the level of a program that we want to get to we can’t afford to make those types of mistakes,” Darlington head coach John Jones said. “We are not going to call our young men out, we are not going to say who made one, but we had a mistake here and a mistake there on three straight drives.”
The first turnover came right out of the gate as Hartsville’s Tiyon Evans fumbled on the first offensive play from scrimmage.
Taking over on Hartsville’s 47-yard line, Darlington had put itself in a great position by silencing the Red Fox faithful throughout Kellytown Stadium with a chance to jump out to an early lead against one of 4A’s best in football.
Instead, the Falcons went three and out, gaining only one yard before punting the ball right back to the Red Foxes.
It looked like Hartsville learned from that fumble on the first drive as quarterback A.J. Joyner scored what looked to be a 57-yard touchdown run down the left sideline on the third play of the second drive.
A holding call on Hartsville however negated the touchdown run and on the very next play the Falcons defense came up big again forcing their second fumble of the game, this time taking over on the Red Foxes 27-yard line.
While it might have been another opportunity inside Hartsville territory, the results were still just as bad, if not even worse, as the Falcons once again came up empty while collecting two false starts and a holding penalty.
The only difference between this drive compared to the previous drive was the fact that Darlington turned the ball over on downs instead of punting.
After having two fumbles on its first two offensive possessions the law of averages would say that there was no way Hartsville could fumble three times in a row, but that so called law was not present at the game this past Friday.
On the second play of the drive Darlington was able to force its third straight fumble taking over on Hartsville’s 47-yard for the second time in three possessions.
“Last week we fumbled the ball a lot, this week we fumbled the ball a lot, you can’t do that,” Hartsville head coach Jeff Calabrese said. “We were able to overcome it tonight, but you won’t be in the playoffs very long if you continue to do that.”
This time, however, the Falcons offense started to find a rhythm, moving all the way to Hartsville’s four-yard line, but sitting on fourth and four from the Red Fox four-yard line Darlington opted to settle for the field goal.
It seemed like that field goal lit a fire under Hartsville.
The Red Foxes answered the field goal with a touchdown on the ensuing drive as Donovan Lambert scored from five yards out with just 1:15 left in the opening quarter.
That touchdown created what seemed like a domino effect as Hartsville scored 28 points in the second quarter for a grand total of 35 unanswered points after the field goal.
“Once they kicked that field goal they kind of looked around and said ‘ok, we need to start playing and if not, we are going to get run out of the stadium’ and they responded big time,” Calabrese said.
Evans scored the first touchdown of the second quarter from 11 yards out while Collins Bishop had a 43-yard scamper sandwiched between two one-yard touchdown runs off of quarterback sneaks by Joyner.
The second half of the game was uneventful as both teams failed to score any points.
With the loss, Darlington wraps up its regular season with an overall record of 2-8 overall, 1-3 in the region, but it does not mean that the season is over. The Falcons now turn their attention to Lower Richland, who they travel to this week to open up the playoffs.
“That is all we are worried about,” Jones said. “We got another chance, another opportunity to come to work tomorrow, another opportunity to get better. It is kind of like going to the dance, you never know what’s going to happen until you get there.”