Kavanaugh Field, Guilford, CT
Friday September 21, 2012
You could hear the excitement of the Guilford fans in anticipation for the Guilford Indians home opener at the Kavanaugh Turf Field at Guilford High School. With that excitement, there were also many questions: Could Guilford even compete with this team? Is it possible to pull off a win? Even the more negative: Would they even get some points on the board or have something to show for after being shut out 28-0 in their season opener at North Haven? These questions were reasonable.
The Blue Devils of West Haven had destroyed Hamden 45-6 in their first game of the season. They were quick, explosive, and had one of the best backs in the state: Ervin Phillips. Guilford had every right to be nervous but they weren’t about to let their nerves get to them. The Indians had something to prove to everyone. It was their home opener and what better time to prove themselves that they could not only play, but they could play with one of the premier teams of the league and some of the premier players in the state. This was Guilford’s time. It was a beautiful fall night, the coaches were prepared, the players were ready and the fans were ready, to witness something special.
To say the first quarter was exciting would be a bit of an understatement. Guilford won the coin toss and after the punt started with the ball on their own 20 yard line. On second down, Duke Knapp ran for 13 yards and got the Indians intial first down of the game. On the very next play, the Indians already had their second first down when K.C. Horton ran for 11 yards on his first of many carries of the game. On only three plays, the Indians had moved the ball around 30 yards and were at West Haven’s 49 yard line. In was a fantastic start in comparison to last week. After a first down mix up that had quarterback Joe Nault under a pile on the line of scrimmage, he ran for 4 yards. On the next play, Eric Zergiebel added a few more yards. The Indians decided to go for it on fourth down and Nault’s running earned him the first down.
Now in the red zone, the Indians knew this was going to be an amazing opportunity to score. They had successfully and efficiently run their offence down the field. On their first play, Horton was taken down by the back of the collar. With the horse collar penalty the Indians gained half the distance to the goal. Horton then made it look easy to run into the end zone for a touchdown at 8:45. With a good extra point, the Indians were up 7-0 against the Blue Devils. Also contributing indirectly to the Indians touchdown was the front line. Throughout the drive and the rest of the game, the blocking was fantastic which allowed the offense to run smoothly and effectively.
The biggest shock of the game was the Indians kickoff, or more correctly speaking, the onside kick that shocked everyone watching. As almost all the players from both sides tried to pounce on the diagonally kicked ball by Nault, the thought that the Indians could have come up with the ball was overwhelming. All of a sudden, everyone was screaming as the referee pointed toward the Blue Devil’s end zone. The Indians had successfully recovered their own onside kick after the first possession of the game!
The momentum died a little bit after a 5 yard motion penalty that backed up the Indians to the Blue Devils’ 45 yard line was assessed. Nault was able to gain some of it back after a 6 yard run. Then came another roar from the Guilford crowd as Nault threw the ball down the field to Knapp for a 29 yard completion and a first down.
The Indians were then backed up another 5 yards by a delay of game penalty but Horton was able to gain it back on a 8 yard run to the 6 yard line. Zergiebel was able to make the 6 yard run into the end zone for the second Guilford touchdown of the half making the score 14-0. The Indians had even more good fortune when one of the West Haven players hit Nault on the extra point attempt which gave the Indians 15 yards on the kickoff.
Nault’s kick was caught in the end zone so the Blue Devils started their first drive of the game on their own 20 yard line. So far, the Indians had showed the Blue Devils that they could play with their defense. But, with the Blue Devil’s well-known offense, it was time for them to show the Indians what they were really made of. The first touch of the ball was given to none other than Ervin Phillips who was then stuffed by the Indian’s Fred Trotta and was held to only three yards.
Unfortunately, the Indians were unable to hold the Blue Devils much longer. On the next play, Duane Gary ran for 11 yards getting the Blue Devils their first down of the game. They got their second on the very next play when Gary ran for another first down. Gary then added another 8 yards, followed by Eddy Williams’s 14 yard run to make it first down again. Dane Lawrence of the Indians was able to hold Gary for 4 yards but on the very next play, Williams ran for a 27 yard touchdown. With a successful extra point, the Indians 14 point lead shrunk to a 7 point lead with 2:05 to go in the quarter.
The Indians third drive was less successful than their first two even with Horton’s 24 yard punt return. Knapp lost 3 yards on first down and on second Zergiebel was only able to gain one. Nault was then sacked for a loss of nine and the Indians were forced into a punt situation.
After the punt, the Blue Devils quarterback Javon Taylor threw an incomplete pass to Gary, but Gary was able to run 10 yards for a first down on the next play. The Indians defensive lineman Colton Schilling, who was also named The Shoreline Times sports person of the month, was able to stop Phillips for a loss of a yard on the next play to make it 2nd and 11. Schilling again was able to make a stop for the Indians on Gary after he gained 4 yards. On the next play, Gary was able to run for what appeared to be a first down but he was marked slightly short. The Blue Devils went for the first down in stunning fashion. As the offensive and defensive linemen went down to try to stop the run, Phillips leaped over the pile of linemen for a first down. Phillips did not stop there. He then tied the game with a 25 yard touchdown run on the very next play.
Antonio Pensa gave the Indians good field position to start their first drive of the second quarter with a 26 yard kick return. Knapp gained 4 yards and then Nault was able to get a first down by adding10 more. A fumble on Nault’s pitch caused the Indians to lose 2 yards and on the next play, they lost another two. The pocket collapsed on Nault and he was forced to scramble and take a loss. The Indians had to punt again.
On the first play of the Blue Devil’s third possession, Taylor threw a screen pass to Phillips for a 38 yard gain. Gary added a yard but it was Williams with another touchdown for the Blue Devils to put them ahead 21-14.
After the punt return by Horton, the Indians fumbled the ball and the Blue Devils were able to set up for another drive. Phillips and Gary ran the ball efficiently again. They were pushed back for an instant by a 5 yard motion penalty but with a pass by Talor to Phillips for a touchdown, they were now ahead by 14 at the end of the first half.
It was not looking good for the Indians at half time. They had been outrun, out passed, and most of all outscored by the Blue Devils offensive machines. Not all hope was lost though. The Indians still had 24 minutes of football to play and they were not ready to give up quite yet.
Guilford started the second half with another onside kick. This one did not go as well as the first. The Blue Devils started out with good field position at the 46 yard line. They were set back 5 yards with a holding call and on the next play lost another two yards when Phillips was dragged down by Dane Lawrence. Gary then ran for 6 but was tackled hard by Mike Serra. On third down, Taylor threw the ball to Gary. After gaining 34 yards, he was dragged down by Nault. Gary gained another 9 yards on the next play but was unable to get the first down before Ford Linell shoved him out of bounds. Williams added four yards to get the first and shortly after gained another five. Gary attempted to make a run but was destroyed by Sean Sullivan to gain nothing. Phillips got back in the action with a seven yard run and then scored a touchdown by jumping over a pile of lineman for a second time in the game. The extra point was no good.
Horton was able to make a 40 yard return on the kickoff to give the Indians good field position on the 49 yard line. After Zergiebel ran for three yards, Nault made an amazing 36 yard run for a first down. That let Zergiebel rush for a two yard touchdown. With a good extra point, the game was now 35-21 with 5:26 left in the quarter.
The momentum from the offense allowed the Indians defense to make a stand on the Blue Devils’ next possession. Williams ran the ball 20 yards after receiving the kickoff but the Blue Devils could not do much after that with the Indians stellar defensive line. Phillips ran for three yards on the first down, but then Williams responded by gaining ten to get a first down. The defense forced Tayor to throw two incomplete passes and on 3rd down, he was sacked hard by linebacker Nick Setaro. The Blue Devils then punted the ball.
The offense made an even bigger statement on their possession. Zergiebel ran for 4 yards to create a 2nd and 6 situation. Nault then was able to complete a 61 yard pass to Tyler Nelson for a first down. After Nelson dragged a pile of Blue Devils defenders at least ten yards down the field, the Indians set up first and ten on the 15 yard line. After two attempted runs by Horton and Zergiebel, Horton was able to score a touchdown. With a good extra point, the game was now 34-28 with 1:15 left in the quarter.
The Indians defense again was able to stop the Blue Devils dynamic offense. Josh Cash stopped Phillips on his first run attempt to prevent him from picking up more than a yard. Ford Linell and Fred Trotta teamed up to stuff Phillips for no gain on his second attempt to penetrate. At the start of the 4th quarter, Taylor completed a 24 yard pass for a first down to Jason Wilkerson. The defense was able to stop Phillips and Gary twice to force the Blue Devils into another punt situation.
At this point in the game, the Indians had the confidence to win. Their defense had proven that they could stop the run of the Blue Devils and their offense had scored four touchdowns. They went into their next drive ready to take the lead and beat West Haven. Horton gained nothing on the first play but Zergiebel responded with a 13 yard run for a first down. The Indians had three small gains that left them with a 4th and three on their own 39 yard line with 6 minutes left in the game. The question: Do we risk everything or play safe and try to stop them on defense?
The Indians now had momentum on offense and defense. Their offense could run this play but their defense had also been great making the Devils punt on their last two plays. The Indians head coach Tom Unger decided to take the risk. After trying to freeze the defense and trying to draw them off- sides, Zergiebel ran but took a loss in the backfield, giving the Blue Devils great field position to score. And score they did with Williams jumping over a pile to get the six points. The two point conversion was no good, but it did not matter. The Indians had Nault completing a 17 yard pass to Pensa, but the Blue Devils took over on downs again.
The decision to go for the first down was a gutsy call by Unger but was not with bad intentions. If it went well it would have been brilliant and if it failed, it would cost the Indians the game. Unger laid it all on the line to try to get his team a victory which is what a good coach would do. The loss of the game was not a complete loss for the Indians. They showed they could play with powerhouse teams which is a confidence booster for when they face Hillhouse and Hand in the upcoming weeks. The Indians season will be an interesting one. So far, we have seen two teams: a team that can get shut out and a team that can play a strong opponent and almost win. It was a moral win for them even though it was a tough loss after a hard fought game.
The Indians hope that in their next home game they can pull out a win again Lyman Hall and replace the 0 in the win column. The game is at 7:00 PM at Kavanaugh Turf Field on September 28.