Lack of execution, discipline gives Hawks second straight loss


photo by Hannah Arnold

Senior safety Caleb Sauter shows his disapproval of a penalty against the Hawks

A slow offensive start mixed with the defense’s inability to prevent big plays was the undoing for the Hawks against Denton Ryan Friday night at The Woodshed. The first half was miserable for the Hawks’ offense as their opening five drives stalled out. Kick returner Derek Mueller twice gave the Hawks great starting field position, but the offense was unable to capitalize off of it. Starting quarterback Isaiah Gary fumbled the snap twice, one of which was recovered by the Raiders and gave them great field position. Twice the coaching staff elected to go for it on fourth down deep in Raider territory, but both attempts failed.

On the other side of the ball, the defense was struggling as well. The Raiders scored three times on their first five drives, resulting in touchdown plays of 30, 15, and 49 yards. Raider running back Maurice Gordon scored the 30-yard touchdown untouched, and he finished the night with 167 yards rushing on 25 attempts. The Hawks secondary struggled all night with the physical Raider receivers. One or two of the touchdowns could have been prevented had the corners and safeties been able to wrap up after allowing a big catch, but they failed to do so. It seemed that Raider quarterback Spencer Sanders (who, by the way, is just a freshman) was able to confidently heave the ball down-field knowing that his receiver would come down with it. The secondary looked undersized and over matched all night, a worrying sign for the rest of the season.

Despite all the negative plays in the first half, the Hawks went into halftime with some momentum. On their sixth drive of the game, Colton Chapin entered the game as quarterback. He connected with senior receiver Christian Dawson on a 30-yard post route to set up first-and-goal from the 5-yard line. The crowd was excited to finally see some variation in the offense, cheering loudly as Dawson reeled in the pass. Angelo Garbutt punched it in on the next play, and the Hawks went into the half trailing 20-7.

There was a different feeling in the stadium as the Hawks re-entered the field. The fans were ecstatic with the team’s final drive of the half, and they were sure that the defense would fix its coverage lapses. Denton Ryan started the half with the ball on their own 20-yard line. The defense stood stiff through the first two downs, and it seemed they had made the Raider offense go three-and-out when Sanders threw the ball away on third down. However, a late flag came in and a roughing the passer penalty was called on senior linebacker Clay Holford. Coach Brazil raced halfway onto the field to argue the decision, and later film of the play showed that it was a bogus call. Holford did not hit Sanders late and did not lead with his head. As a result, the Raider’s drive continued. On the very next play, Sanders heaved the ball down-field to junior receiver Rodney Gladney. Gladney made two men miss and trotted to the end zone, leaving the home crowd in complete silence after the swift change of events.

Surprisingly, the defense held strong for the rest of the half following Gladney’s touchdown. The offense improved slightly, as both Garbutt and fellow senior running back Tray Pugh were able to score. Pugh’s 7-yard touchdown run came with a little over three minutes left to play and narrowed Ryan’s lead to 27-21.

The defense was going to have to make a big stop if the Hawks wanted a chance to win the game. The Raider’s ensuing drive started at their own 30-yard line. After two plays that went nowhere, the Hawks defense just had to make a stop on third and 12. Sanders dropped back in the pocket and chose to heave it high in the air to senior receiver Jordan Murray. Murray was covered closely by senior Hawks corner Jelani Heath, but he was able to somehow catch the ball by pinning it to his left shoulder pad. Despite the huge first down, the defense was able to later stop the Raider offense on fourth and inches to get the ball back with 45 seconds to play.

Without any timeouts, Chapin was able to lead the offense 20 yards down the field before being forced to throw the ball away on fourth down. Having spiked the ball on third down in order to stop the clock, the junior quarterback must have forgotten that it was fourth down. After that, the Raiders simply took a knee and escaped with a 27-21 victory.

The Hawks have much to improve on before their first district game against the Plano Wildcats next Friday. The offense, however, was able to show more diversity this game by throwing the ball successfully. That is something they will have to continue to do because defenses will begin to clamp down on the running game. The defense desperately needs senior safety Omar Hicks-Onu to return to put experience in the secondary. He is the only safety that has played in a varsity game before this year, and his unique athletic abilities are needed. This 0-2 start doesn’t spell disaster, but I believe the Hawks must win next week’s game if they want a shot in the playoffs.