Darlington comes close to pulling off a stunner in the opening week

By Drake Horton
Contributing Writer

Darlington – If game one is any indication of what is to come, then 2018 is going to be a much better season than 2017 was for the Darlington Falcons.

Opening up the season at home this past Friday against the Cheraw Braves, the Falcons entered the game as an enigma to most.

Coming off a disappointing performance in the jamborees against Dillon and McBee, there was not much hope in what Darlington could do against a really good Cheraw team.

That was the thought of most, then the game started and all of those thoughts went right out of the window.

Yes, Darlington did lose and no, there is no such thing as a moral victory, but if there ever was one then this game was it.

The Falcons, who were not given much of chance by anybody except themselves, pushed Cheraw to the limit, having multiple chances to win before the Braves retook the lead for the last time with less than a minute to go in the game to win 44-41.

“We had more than every opportunity to win,” Darlington head coach John Jones said.

Sitting on Darlington’s 27-yard line, what should have been second and ten turned into a first and goal on the Falcons four-yard line after a questionable pass interference call that had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty added to it.

“We felt like we had made a good play and got a pass interference call,” Jones said.

From there, the Braves, who had been mostly operating out of the spread, lined up in the wishbone and punched in the game-winning touchdown.

And while that final drive proved to be disappointing for the Falcons, the overall game was more than just a pleasant surprise. It had the look of progress for a team that has been working extremely hard over the off-season.

Darlington looked like world beaters in the first quarter. After struggling for the majority of last season on offense, the Falcons looked like a well-oiled machine against Cheraw.

On just the third play from scrimmage quarterback Silas Barr connected with wide receiver Jordan English down the right sideline for a 51-yard touchdown reception.

The quick start did not last long, however. After a one-yard touchdown run by Javorius Williams on Darlington’s second offensive possession of the game that put the Falcons up 14-0 there was a sudden role reversal for both teams.

Following Williams’ touchdown, Cheraw cut Darlington’s 14-point lead to just five in a matter of 14 seconds following a quick 48-yard touchdown pass and a poor snap that resulted in a safety.

From there nothing seemed to go Darlington’s way in the first half.

On their opening possession in the second quarter Malike Cooper was able to get to the outside on a jet sweep and turned it into what looked like a 41-yard touchdown run. Instead a block in the back negated the touchdown for the Falcons and Darlington ended up punting three plays later.

With the momentum seemingly sucked out of Darlington’s sails, Cheraw made the most of the second quarter, scoring two more touchdowns, going in at the half up 24-14.

“We had a 14-0 lead and then in the second quarter we had three consecutive offensive possessions where we shot ourselves in the foot,” Jones said. “A bad snap for a safety, two dropped passes and another drive where we had three penalties and ended up having to punt the football.”
Down by 10 Darlington could have mailed it in but instead the Falcons came out swinging in the second half and, despite two different lightning delays, came within a minute of pulling off a big opening week upset.

Both teams went back and forth in the second half with Darlington scoring 13 unanswered points to go up 34-31 before Cheraw retook the lead to go up 37-34.

Up 41-37 on Cheraw, it looked like a strong possibility that Darlington was going to pull off the upset, but that final drive with those two killer penalties proved too much for the Falcons.

Darlington now prepares to go on the road this week to take on West Florence, one of Jones’ former teams where he was the offensive coordinator.

Author: Stephan Drew

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