Red zone offense, special team blunders and fourth down defense cripples Darlington
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
Darlington’s attempt to reclaim the Virgil Wells Trophy from the Wilson Tigers was unsuccessful this past Friday as the Falcons dropped its second straight game of the year by a score of 37-14.
Similar to the game against Cheraw the previous week, Darlington did more to hurt itself and lose the game than what Wilson did to win it.
Against the Tigers, the Falcons struggled in the red zone, made special teams blunder after blunder and failed to convert any significant fourth down conversions while letting Wilson extend what would become scoring drives with numerous fourth down conversions.
First let us start with the red zones woe. The Falcons made it into the Tigers red zone six times, four of those in the first half, but were only able to come up with two scores, both in the second half.
“We can’t make mistakes in the red zone like we made tonight,” Darlington head coach John Jones said. “We made some critical mistakes in the red zone.”
In the first quarter Darlington got the ball all the way to the Wilson 16-yard line, but the drive stalled and the Falcons missed the 25-yard field goal attempt.
The second quarter was even worse. Darlington failed to convert a fourth down attempt after reaching the Tigers’ 16-yard line once again, fumbled after reaching Wilson’s five-yard line and made it all the way down the one-yard line in the final seconds before time ran out to end the first half.
That last one came with quite the controversy. After reaching the Tiger’s one-yard line in the waning second of the first half, Darlington called a timeout to regroup and get two plays called in case it failed to score on the first try.
The problem, however, was as the Falcons stood on the sideline talking to Jones, the clock was still running.
Darlington thought it had called its final timeout to call, but the officials made an inexcusable mistake, saying the Falcons had already burned all three of their timeouts. Instead of cutting Wilson’s 14-0 lead to at least 14-6 and receiving the ball to start the third quarter the Falcons had every bit of momentum sucked away.
“With 30 seconds to go we asked the official how many timeouts we had and he told us we had one so with 15 seconds left, we called timeout,” Jones said. “We were going to call two plays in the huddle in case we didn’t score and when we called timeout and went to the sidelines they put the ball in play and said we didn’t have one.”
Red zone troubles were not the only problem the Falcons had against Wilson. Like a week ago against Cheraw, Darlington’s special team woes were on full display against the Tigers as well.
During the course of four quarters, Darlington had a bad snap on a field goal attempt in the first quarter, a snap that sailed over the punter’s head in the third, roughed Wilson’s kicker in the fourth and had a punt blocked in the fourth.
On all four of Darlington’s special team’s errors Wilson capitalized to score. The Tigers scored a touchdown after the botched field goal attempt to go up 7-0, made a field goal of their own after snap sailed over the punter’s head to increase the lead to 17-7, and scored touchdowns following the roughing the kicker penalty and the blocked punt to up 30-7 and 37-7 respectively.
“We have got to do special teams work and got to do our special teams stuff and we have got to do it and do it and do it and do it and do it and we have got to get better at it every day,” Jones said. “The thing is, we work special teams every day. We can’t have that mental breakdown and let mistakes happen that we have had happen on special teams, but that falls on me. I have got to get us better in that situation.”
Despite Wilson getting so many opportunities from Darlington via its red zone blunders or special team’s mishaps, the Falcons defense had multiple opportunities to get off the field without surrendering points. However, it was too many Tiger fourth down conversions that killed the effort.
On three of Wilson’s five touchdowns the Tigers converted a fourth down play to keep the drive alive including two on its second drive in the third quarter that answered a Javorius Williams touchdown that had cut Wilson’s lead to just 10.
Wide receiver Jordan English had Darlington’s other touchdown; an eight-yard reception from Silas Barr with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter.
English led the Falcons in receptions with 10 including 7 in the first half, but struggled in the second half, dropping four straight passes, until the final drive of the game for the Falcons where he scored.
The Falcons drop to 0-2 on the year and continue their road trip traveling to take on the Lamar Silver Foxes this coming Friday.