DEVAN BYNOE breaks to the outside during action Saturday at St. Thomas. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
September 03, 2012DOVER — Despite the fact that St. Thomas was moving up from Division V to play its first Division IV game, Kennett football coach Mike Holderman knew his squad would be in for a battle.
After all, the Saints went undefeated in Division V a year ago and bring plenty of returning players to the field.
That being said, Holderman's guys battled tooth and nail throughout the game and had a chance to walk off with a win, but an interception with 25 seconds to go in the game spelled the end for the Eagles, as the Saints picked up a 12-7 win on Saturday in Dover.
"We usually come out good and for some reason we didn't come out like we usually do," Holderman said. "And if you get behind a team like that, you're in trouble."
It was probably no secret to the Saints that the Eagles would be going with a healthy dose of Nick Massa in the opening game, with inexperienced quarterbacks Will Pollard and Nick Graziano under center.
And the Eagles did just that, with Massa getting 28 carries for 168 yards, while Tommy Donovan and Devan Bynoe also saw their fair share of runs for the Eagles.
Bynoe actually got the first run of the game and two runs by Massa got the Eagles the first down. However, a sack set them back and though Pollard completed his first varsity pass to Donovan, it was only a three-yard pickup on third down and Kennett had to punt.
The Saints didn't have much luck on their first drive either, as Jon Saxby was in the backfield on the first play and a penalty made it third and 27. A horrific punt gave the Eagles decent field position. Massa picked up a first down across midfield, but the drive stalled there, as Christian Rivers couldn't convert on fourth and four and the Saints got the ball back.
The hosts them moved the ball down the field, utilizing the run most of the way, though a few passes found their way to receivers. However, the Saints put the ball on the ground on a second and one and Jordan Stocker recovered the fumble, giving Kennett the ball back as the first quarter came to an end.
Massa picked up a fourth down conversion on the third play of the second quarter and Kennett moved the ball down the field, with Bynoe, Donovan and Massa getting the call, but the drive sputtered out and Kennett punted again.
The ensuing Saints drive ate up a bunch of the field, as a couple big runs pushed them past midfield. However, another fumble got the Eagles the ball back, as Adam Suprenard pounced on the loose ball at the 30-yard line.
Kennett couldn't get moving and on the punt attempt, Donovan couldn't handle the snap, giving the Saints the ball at the seven-yard line and they needed just one play to carry in for the touchdown with three minutes to go in the half.
It looked like the Saints might score again in the half, as a bad punt gave them great field position, but a sack from Theo Scarlett and another from Nate Lautenschlager and Jake Cameron helped end the drive inside the 20-yard line as the half came to a close.
St. Thomas promptly took the opening drive of the second half and moved up the field for the score, but again failed on the two-point conversion. Nate Arnold did come up with a sack on the drive, but the Saints had a 12-0 lead with 9:10 to go in the third.
Runs from Massa and Bynoe got Kennett off to a good start on the next drive, but Graziano fumbled the snap and St. Thomas recovered. Kennett's defense came out strong, with Conor McDonald getting a sack on first down and Chris Krug stuffing a receiver on a screen pass, eventually forcing St. Thomas to punt.
Again, Kennett got off to a strong start on the drive, as Massa and Donovan had solid gains to move the ball out to the 40-yard line. However, a sack and an incomplete pass led to another punt.
The Kennett defense stepped up again, with Suprenard stuffing a run in the backfield and a penalty on fourth and inches forced the Saints to punt away.
Massa ran three times to run out the clock in the third quarter with Kennett on the move. Massa and Donovan moved the ball up the field nicely and on fourth and 11, Holderman elected to take a chance and go for it. Graziano hit Massa with a screen pass and the senior back picked up 17 yards and a key first down. Two plays later, Massa run in from 18 yards out for the touchdown with 6:09 to play.
Caine Warren came in to boot the extra point. The kick was low and it struck either a helmet or a body in the pile. However, it struck at just the right angle that it deflected up and through the goal posts, cutting the lead to 12-7.
The Eagle defense got good stops from Theo Scarlett and Christian Rivers, forcing the Saints to punt away one final time. The punt, however, was a beauty, pinning Kennett at the eight-yard line with three minutes to play.
A screen to Massa picked up 13 yards and on fourth and six, Massa carried for 12 yards for a key first down.
On third and 13 with 25 seconds to go, Graziano went to the air, but his pass was tipped and intercepted to close out the contest.
"I'm happy with the way we came back in the second half," Holderman said. "I thought we moved the ball well."
He praised Massa for another solid game, but also noted that Donovan and Bynoe were effective getting the ball outside, particularly in the second half. The running game was key, with an inexperienced quarterback.
"With an inexperienced quarterback and an inexperienced line, we took our chances with what we knew," Holderman said.
The Eagles will now take on rival Plymouth at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, at Gary Millen Stadium, a game Holderman is looking forward to.
"We know what Plymouth does, it's much different from what we saw today," the Eagle coach said. "I know the guys are going to be 120 percent prepared for them."
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126