September 7, 2006

Missed Opportunities Result In 13-8 Season Opening Loss For Tigers

SCR-I was unable to capitalize on four Panther turnovers in an effort to end a six-year losing streak to Salisbury.

Close is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades, so Friday nights season opener for Scotland County went down as a loss as the Tigers were unable to take advantage of several opportunities to knock off perennial powerhouse Salisbury. But not only did the Tigers lose 13-8 on the scoreboard, but SCR-I took a huge blow early in the first period, losing all-conference receiver Matt Wickert to a broken ankle the very first time the senior touched the ball.

Scotland County looked poised to jump out in front of the Panthers after Salisbury turned the ball over with a fumble on the home teams first possession.

SCR-I took over the ball at the 40-yard line and quickly got into scoring position behind a 22-yard pass completion from Marcus Shalley to Zach McBee. McBee moved the chains again with a solid run that set up first and goal to go inside the 10-yard line. But SCR-I couldnt punch the ball into the end zone and Wickerts 22-yard field-goal attempt hit the left upright and was no good.

The Tigers defense held Salisbury to just three plays and forced a punt. But the Panthers defense returned the favor and the Tigers went three and out with a punt.

The Panthers mounted the teams first scoring drive of the contest, eating up the remainer of the first period behind the pounding rushing attack of fullback Chris Whitley. SCR-I appeared to have the drive stopped but Salisbury quarterback Curtis Hayward wriggled free from two prospective sackers and connected for a long pass play to tight end John Kruse that kept the drive alive. Hayward then connected with Nathan Yung on a three-yard touchdown pass with 8:29 to play in the second period. Whitley made the point after kick to put Salisbury on top 7-0.

The momentum continued to slide away from the Tigers. SCR-I picked up a pair of first downs before Wickert took a handoff inside and picked up five yards. But at the end of the play he was gang-tackled and bent backwards, catching his leg underneath him as he went down.

After losing the talented back for most of the year last season with a broken collarbone, the team took another blow when the senior was taken from the field by ambulance.

If that wasnt enough SCR-I had the wind removed from its sails even further when the team was flagged for offensive pass interference nullifying a beautiful diving grab by McBee that would have put the Tigers in scoring position.

But after SCR-I was forced to punt the Tigers defense kept Salisbury from capitalizing on the momentum swing. McBee picked off a Hayward pass with just 57.6 seconds left in the first half.

SCR-I tried to take advantage of Salisburys second turnover of the contest. But SCR-Is hurry-up offense ultimately left the door open for the home team. SCR-I was unable to pick up a first down and had to punt the ball back to the Panthers with just under 30 seconds on the clock.

That was all the time it took as Hayward found Kruse for a deep bomb down the middle. Kruse broke one tackle and went the distance for a 51-yard touchdown. Whitleys PAT was no good, leaving the margin at 13-0 with 6.8 ticks left on the clock.

The Tigers defense kept the team in the contest in the second half while the offense struggled minus two of its top options, Wickert and fellow receiver Bryce Blomme, out with a separated shoulder.

After SCR-I went three and out to open the second half, McBee recovered a fumble by Whitley to get the ball back. Following another three and out on offense, the defense once again held the Panthers. The big play was a sack by Andy Cowell, which forced a punt.

But the Tigers went three and out one more time. Yung broke a good return on the kick but coughed up the ball at the end of the run and SCR-Is Kyle Shelley recovered the fourth turnover of the contest by the Panthers.

The miscue gave Scotland County new life on offense. The Tigers moved the chains on the ground behind the option running of Shalley, Eric Glass and McBee. Shalley then found Grant Blomme with a seven-yard touchdown pass. McBee then punched the ball in on the ground for the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 13-8 with 49.8 seconds left in the third period.

Colby Brown came up with a big quarterback sack that finished off Salisburys next possession giving Scotland County the ball back early in the fourth period. The Tigers nearly got the ball back in great shape as Cowell nearly blocked the Salisbury punt.

SCR-I looked poised to go three and out but coach Brent Bondurant went for it on fourth and 10. His confidence paid off as Shalley connected with McBee on a pass play that moved the chains.

A costly holding penalty backed the Tigers up and ultimately stalled the drive out at the 12-yard line with 8:58 left to play in the game.

SCR-I got one final chance at the victory as the defense held and forced a Salisbury punt with just over four minutes on the clock.

The Tigers picked up a trio of first downs behind the running of Shalley and McBee. Shalley then connected with Grant Blomme whose run after the catch moved the ball to the 17-yard line.

Another holding penalty on the Tigers backed the team up once again. Shalley hit McBee with a pass to get much of the penalty yardage back. But on fourth down and 14 to go, Shalley was unable to escape the Salisbury pass rush and was sacked to end SCR-Is final chance.

After managing just four first downs in the first half, SCR-I finished the game with 14 first downs. Shalley ran the ball 15 times for 66 yards. McBee had eight rushes for 46 yards. Glass finished with six attempts for 24 yards.

Shalley completed 10-of-28 pass attempts for 91 yards and a touchdown. McBee grabbed five passes for 51 yards while Grant Blomme had five receptions for 41 yards and a score.

Salisbury had just 13 first downs, moving the chains just five times in the second half. Whitley did the bulk of the work, rushing 26 times for 133 yards. Hayward completed five of 11 passes for 97 yards and two TDs.

Shalley led the Tigers defense with 11 tackles. Cowell finished with nine stops while Bradley Hamner made eight tackles. Mcbee and Lance Smith each were credited with seven stops.

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