September 25, 2013Miscues at inopportune times kept host Crawford County out of — and helped put Patoka Lake Athletic Conference rival Mitchell into — the win column for the first time this season on a very wet homecoming night Friday at Breeden Memorial Field. Despite the 14-6 loss, there were some bright spots on both sides of the ball for the young Wolfpack.
"Close games come down to turnovers more often than not," Crawford County coach Alan Hess said. "In our case, it's been true. We can't make silly mistakes and kill drives. … We show such promise, then give it away."
Both teams struggled to advance the ball in the first quarter, as they appeared to have trouble adjusting to the constant rain that began before kickoff and continued after the final whistle, only changing from steady to heavy.
Still, Crawford County, which had won the coin toss only to punt on fourth-and-11, got good field position, after Mitchell, following a nice second-and-five run, fumbled away the ball.
Crawford County quarterback Seth Fell gets this pass away as Mitchell's Travis Duncan prepares to tackle him.
The Wolfpack, however, couldn't capitalize on the advantage, giving the Bluejackets (1-4, 1-2 PLAC) another crack. Mitchell picked up the game's first first down on a 3-yard keeper on fourth-and-two by quarterback Luke Jakub to the Crawford County 46. A holding call on another Jakub run turned a second-and-seven situation into a second-and-12.
A 2-yard loss on the next play courtesy of a Brandon Cate tackle pushed the Bluejackets into third-and-14 from their own 49. Junior running back Brady Chastain got the call, but could only advance four yards, as Mitchell was forced to punt.
The kick pinned the Wolfpack (0-5, 0-3 PLAC) deep into their own territory, as they began their third drive at the 13-yard-line. Following two incomplete passes from Seth Fell to Zach Thomas, the second in and out of his arms, the Wolfpack took a 5-yard loss, bringing up fourth-and-15 to close the first quarter. Crawford County, however, got another chance when Mitchell was called for roughing the kicker as J.C. Bernard booted the punt.
What appeared to be a crucial mistake by the Bluejackets turned into good fortune, as the Wolfpack on first-and-10 from their own 24-yard-line fumbled the ball back to Mitchell, setting up what would be the game's first score.
Following a 1-yard run by Daniel Sutherland and a stuff by the Crawford County defense, Mitchell faced third-and-nine at the 20. The Wolfpack line couldn't hold, and Mitchell pushed the ball to the 1-yard-line on two runs, the first a 12-yard gain for the first down and the second a 7-yard push by Travis Duncan.
With the Crawford County defense on its heels, Jakub easily put the ball into the end zone on the quarterback keeper. The Bluejackets tacked on two more points as Jakub again called his own number on the conversion, and had an 8-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The Wolfpack, however, weren't about to roll over. Following unsuccessful drives by both teams, Crawford County got the ball back on about its own 43-yard-line with 5:12 remaining in the half.
Cate then wasted little time getting the Wolfpack back in the game. After taking the hand-off, he used his speed and teammates' quality blocking to race up the right sideline 57 yards into the end zone. Despite being unsuccessful on the two-point conversion attempt, Crawford County was on the board, at 8-6.
It looked as if Mitchell was going to make sure the Wolfpack momentum was short-lived as the Bluejackets finished the half by advancing the ball to the Crawford County 1-yard-line. However, with the final seconds of the clock ticking away, the Wolfpack defense found its footing, making a goal-line stand.
After Mitchell turned over the ball on downs on its first drive of the second half, Crawford County, starting its drive at the Wolfpack 36-yard-line, again made a costly mistake, as the first-down snap sailed over Fell's head. Fell raced to the ball but was unable to corral it, as linebacker Thad Vash grabbed it first, giving Mitchell excellent field position at about the Crawford County 12.
The Wolfpack defense again tightened, forcing a fourth-and-two situation, but, after a Mitchell time-out, Duncan got the call and pushed to the 2-yard-line. The measurement by the officials showed it was good enough for a first down by inches.
After getting no gain on their first attempt, the Bluejackets again went to Duncan, who busted into the end zone with 5:14 remaining in the third quarter. Mitchell was unsuccessful in its attempt at the two-point conversion, leaving the Wolfpack within a possession at 14-6.
Crawford County's offense got rolling on its next drive, which began on its own 35-yard-line. On second-and-four, which was set up by a 6-yard run by Levi Schwartz, Fell connected with Cate on a 38-yard pass play, advancing the ball to the Mitchell 21 with 4:31 remaining in the quarter. Once again, however, the Wolfpack were their own worst enemies, as Fell went to the air again, only to be picked off by Ben Burris.
From there, neither team did much until later in the fourth quarter, when Crawford County began what appeared to be its last drive of the game. On first down from the Wolfpack 21, Fell gained 20 yards on a quarterback keeper. An incomplete pass to Robert Schwartz brought up second down with 4:23 left.
Fell and Schwartz then connected for 18 yards to about the Mitchell 43-yard-line. In a rhythm, Fell hooked up with Cate for 8 yards and then Levi Schwartz for 15 yards.
With just over three minutes remaining and the ball at the Mitchell 20-yard-line, the Bluejackets called time-out. The break in play got the Wolfpack offense out of sync, as it lost major yardage on the next two downs, the first a busted play that and the second a mishandled snap that brought up third-and-28 from about the 39.
The Mitchell defense again tightened, stuffing the Wolfpack for a 7-yard loss. On fourth-and-38 from near midfield with 1:37 remaining, Fell again went to Cate. The pass was complete, but Cate was tackled well short of the first down.
Taking over the ball on their own 46, the Bluejackets attempted to run out the clock by taking a knee, but Crawford County quickly called time-out.
The strategy worked, as the Bluejackets weren't able to close out the game, and a bumbled fourth-down play gave the ball back to the Wolfpack with 8.9 seconds left.
Fell, from the Wolfpack 30, hoisted a pass toward the end zone, but a swarm of Bluejackets were waiting, as it was intercepted with 4.4 seconds left.
With several new players on the roster this season, Hess said his job is to keep his players focused on the big picture.
"We knew we weren't going to win state this year and probably weren't going to push for a conference title," he said. "With the majority of our younger kids in the weight room, in a couple of years, we can be there and play with anyone on our schedule. We need to get more of the kids in the weight room and keep working every day to get over the hump.
"I came here to see it get fixed, and I think in a year's time, we'll be much closer. There is light at the end of this tunnel."
In the meantime, with the Wolfpack traveling to PLAC rival Springs Valley Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff, Hess said his team will keep working.
"Limit our mistakes. We have to find a way to move the ball inside the tackles. Our offensive line has to do some soul searching and get it done," he said.
"We as coaches have to keep preaching the little things and stay as positive as possible. Rome wasn't built in a day, and we know how far we have come since the start of August," he continued. "You get back on the horse and give it another ride. We'll be fine."