Homecoming not so sweet for Falcons
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
Darlington – It was a not-so-welcoming homecoming for the Darlington Falcons this past Friday.
In front of not only family and friends but also countless alumni from years past, the Falcons struggled mightily in their opening region game, losing 26-0 to the Crestwood Knights.
After playing its two best games of the season during the last two weeks, it appeared as if Darlington reverted back to some of its old ways, getting shutout for the first time this season.
The Falcons had multiple opportunities to score in the first half, but whether it was poor execution or unfortunate breaks Darlington was never able to capitalize.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” Darlington head coach John Jones said. “Our defense played their tail off tonight, kept us in the ball game the whole time and we couldn’t ever get any rhythm offensively whatsoever whether it was a missed block here, a dropped pass there, a bad read we just never got into a rhythm offensively.”
It all started midway in the first quarter. Following Crestwood’s touchdown on fourth and six from the Falcons 16-yard line, Darlington decided to roll the dice.
On what was a prototypical punt situation, the Falcons sneaked on backup quarterback Silas Barr as the punter. He connected with wide receiver Jordan English for a first down inside the Crestwood 15-yard, but the officials ruled he had stepped out right before catching the ball, resulting in a turnover on downs and taking away a golden chance to put some points on the board.
That unfortunate play was compounded in the first quarter by poor execution on a fourth down play near the end of the quarter.
Following the blown call of English’s reception on the fake punt, Darlington’s defense forced its second punt of the game, a shank that gave the Falcons excellent field position, starting the drive on Crestwood’s 30-yard line.
With the ball sitting on the Knights 21-yard line and needing just one yard on fourth down to move the chains, Darlington made the gamble to go for it with the hope of scoring a touchdown later in the drive to tie the game.
While the theory was good the reality was not, as quarterback Brian Robinson lost a yard when he decided to keep the ball instead of pitching it to running back Javorius William, turning the ball over on downs for the second time.
As if two drives that looked like potential scoring opportunities only to end with the ball being turned over on downs were not bad enough, three would most definitely be and that is exactly what happened.
On their next offensive drive the Falcons marched down the field once again deep inside Crestwood territory, but on fourth and 11 English was only able to get 10 ½ yards giving the Knights the ball back on their own 25-yard line.
In a first half that saw nothing go its way in critical offensive situations, things only got worse as Robinson suffered an injury with less than five minutes left in the second quarter that kept him out for the rest of the game.
Despite so much not going the Falcons way offensively, including the injury to Robinson, the Falcons opened the third quarter down only 7-0 and with Barr, who has plenty of starting experience, as a backup.
Darlington’s opening drive in the third was not all that bad, moving the ball down the field before stalling and setting up a 37-yard field goal attempt for Henrique Pedro. Pedro, however, pushed the ball wide left and that was the last chance the Falcons ever had at scoring.
Barr was intercepted back-to-back times by the same Crestwood player in the third quarter with the Knights scoring 10 points on both of the turnovers, a touchdown at the 4:56 mark and a 30-yard field goal with 11:32 to go in fourth.
The Falcons self-inflicted wounds continued in the fourth quarter as Pedro stepped out of the end zone on a punt attempt due to fielding a low snap resulting in a safety.
Following the two-point safety Darlington had to kick the ball back off to Crestwood and the Knights went right down the field scoring for the final time, a two-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 26-0.
While the 26-0 loss looked lopsided it was a lot closer than what it appeared as the Knights scored 10 points off of turnovers and nine points from the safety when you count the two points and the possession that followed as a result of the safety.
“You can’t make mistakes,” Jones said. “We’re not a football team that’s at the point where we can make a mistake here, make a mistake there and live and die.”
Defensively the Knights had no room to run against an improving Darlington defense and outside of a couple of big pass plays, Crestwood’s offense was very limited in what it could do against the Falcons.
The margin for error, however, is now a whole lot smaller as the Falcons have just three region games left with the hope to still make the playoffs.
Darlington is off this week and gets back to action next week as the Falcons travel to Sumter to take on the Lakewood Gators for their second region game of the year.
Last year Darlington defeated the Gators 21-7, for its only win of the year.