Too many mistakes spoil home opener for Darlington
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
The Darlington Falcons football season did not get off to the start it envisioned.
Instead, the Falcons had to take their lumps and bruises in front of a home crowd on Friday night as the Cheraw Braves wrapped up a 32-6 victory on the opening week of the regular season.
“There were a lot of areas tonight that we got outplayed and out coached in, and that falls on me not on those young men in there- they work their butt off and our coaches work their butt off,” Darlington head coach John Jones said. “I have to do a better job of making sure we are prepared.”
From missed assignments, poor execution, or just simply losing the turnover battle, Darlington, who saw 18 players get its first snap in a varsity game against Cheraw, looked as young as it really is.
“There were moments out there where we looked the part of a lot of young guys on the field,” Jones said. “We told our guys all summer and all fall camp we are not going to use our youth and inexperience as an excuse. We still have to put on the pads and play and this is part of the growing up process.”
Darlington did not run a play from scrimmage in Cheraw’s territory until the 6:55 mark in the third quarter all while committing three turnovers and struggling in the special teams department.
Cheraw’s first nine points came on short fields where Darlington had punted the ball for 26 yards and seven yards its first two drives of the game.
The Braves average starting field position during those first two drives was the Darlington 40-yard line, giving the Falcons defense an almost impossible mission of not allowing Cheraw to score.
Two of Cheraw’s touchdowns came off of Darlington fumbles inside its own 15-yard line with one actually recovered in the end zone itself for the touchdown.
The Braves other field goal came on one play as time expired in the second quarter because of a failed punt attempt. It set Cheraw up on the Falcon two yard line with 4.8 seconds to go in the half.
“Honestly I thought our defense played well,” Jones said. “You go back and look we did not play very well offensively and special team wise and at the end of the day you have to win at least two-thirds of the three aspects of the game to win a football game and we didn’t. Their defense out played us and their special teams out played us.”
Darlington opened the game with the football on offense, but within two minutes it was Cheraw who had the lead.
After forcing Darlington to punt on a quick three and out, the Braves capitalized on the Falcons 26-yard punt as Kristian McCray went 38 yards on the opening carry of the drive to score with 10:35 still left in the first quarter.
The next possession for the Falcons was like a mirror image of the first with Darlington not converting any first downs and once again short punting, giving the Braves terrific field position.
Cheraw made it to the Falcons 10-yard line, but the Darlington defense flexed its muscles, holding the Braves to 26-yard Jonah Dyson field goal, extending the lead to 9-0 with 3:23 in the first quarter.
Down by nine and early in the second quarter Darlington had a chance to swing the momentum of the game. With the ball sitting on the Falcons 36-yard line, Falcons’ Sa’von Williams dropped what would have been an easy “pick six” that could have potentially brought Darlington within two.
The mistakes, unfortunately, did not stop there. Later in the period, with the score still 9-0, Darlington was backed up deep in its own territory when the ole turnover bug-a-boo showed its ugly face.
With the drive starting on the Darlington 15-yard line, the Falcons’ Joshua Gray fumbled and Cheraw recovered on the 12-yard line, setting up a quick three-play drive ending with Cam Gainey scoring from four yards out with just 1:31 left before half.
That play really seemed to get the game spinning out of control for the Falcons as Darlington botched the punt on the next series, giving Cheraw the football on the Darlington two-yard line with just 4.8 seconds left before half.
The Braves decided to play it safe, kicking a field goal and extending their lead to 18-0 as time expired at the half.
Cheraw kept its foot on the pedal in the third quarter, opening with the football and scoring, marching methodically down the field, increasing its lead to 25-0.
Cheraw added one more touchdown in the fourth quarter when Darlington quarter Joseph Scott was sacked and fumbled the football in the end zone where it was recovered by the Braves for the score.
The Falcons lone score of the game came late in the fourth quarter when Phache Richardson ran in from five yards out.
Darlington will set its sights on next week’s matchup with the Wilson Tigers to vie for the coveted Virgil Wells Trophy.
“We have to go find a way to get better every day and we got to find a way to regroup and come back from this,” Jones said.
In other games around the county, the Hartsville Red Foxes defeated Lake City 40-27; the Lamar Silver Foxes easily handled Hannah-Pamplico 41-3; and Trinity-Byrnes beat King’s Academy 43-7.