Second-Half Turnovers Spoil Coyotes’ Strong First Half
Football games are tales of two halves — a team might start somewhat flat in the first two quarters, but there’s still two more quarters after halftime to get things going.
Unfortunately for the Clarksburg varsity football team, Montgomery Blair was able to do just that, scoring four straight touchdowns in the second half to defeat Clarksburg 41-17 Friday evening.
“When the second half was coming, we had a great opportunity to turn it on,” Clarksburg head coach Bob Plante said. “You can’t make mistakes and they have to learn from this, that we have to secure the football. We were in the fight.”
The Coyotes (5-3) grabbed some early momentum in the first quarter with a crucial goal-line stand, forcing the Blazers (5-3) to turnover on downs at the Coyotes’ eight-yard line on a drive that started back at the Blazers’ 19-yard line.
Senior quarterback Joey Perkins led Clarksburg’s rushing attack all evening long, picking up three first downs with his legs on Clarksburg’s opening drive. One of those first downs came on a fourth-and-short at midfield to keep the drive alive with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
When the second quarter began, the Coyotes faced a third-and-10 at the Blazers’ 35-yard line. Two Perkins passes to senior wide receiver Toron Williams and junior wide receiver Casey McKinney, respectively, eventually put the Coyotes inside the Blazers’ 20-yard line.
Blair’s defense kept Clarksburg out of the end zone but a 26-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Diego Villeda gave the Coyotes a 3-0 lead with 10 minutes to play in the half.
The Blazers didn’t waste any time moving downfield, as a 40-yard run on an end-around by senior wide receiver Maada Kposowa on the drive’s first play quickly moved the Blazers within scoring range. Senior running back Brandon Ntankeu capped off the drive with three strong runs to give the Blazers their first lead with just under nine minutes left in the half.
Clarksburg’s offense stalled on its next drive, going three-and-out just past midfield. On Blair’s next possession, senior free safety Ben Spiess intercepted senior quarterback Pablo Perez at the Clarksburg 43-yard line to give Clarksburg’s offense another chance to respond with just over five minutes remaining in the half.
The Coyote offense cashed in on the takeaway, courtesy of two big Perkins runs that set up a two-yard touchdown run and gave the Coyotes a 10-7 lead.
“They came out and took it right to us, but then we [had] a goal-line stand down there, we stopped them,” Plante said. “We went back, we came back and scored. We came back and got ahead of them.”
Clarksburg nearly got the ball back again before halftime as Blair faced a fourth-and-two at their own 28-yard line, but an offsides penalty on Clarksburg gave Blair a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, Perez found Ntankeu for a 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown to put Blair back in front 13-10 just before halftime.
Looking to retake the lead after receiving the second half kickoff, the Coyotes’ offense went three-and-out to start the third quarter, struggling to move the ball as effectively as they had in the first half.
The Clarksburg defense made another big fourth-down stop around midfield on Blair’s next drive, but the offense sputtered again and was forced to punt. A bad snap on Clarksburg’s punt attempt led to Blair taking possession at the Clarksburg 26-yard line with just under six minutes left in the third.
The Blazers converted two fourth downs on their next drive, thanks to an Ntankeu run to the Coyotes’ 15-yard line and a 9-yard touchdown pass from Perez to Kposowa that put the Blazers up 20-10 near the end of the third quarter.
Clarksburg was forced to punt once again to start the fourth quarter, while Blair quickly scored once again after a 78-yard touchdown run by Ntankeu on Blair’s second play of the drive.
Things only got bleaker for Clarksburg as sophomore wide receiver Drew Moore was stripped on his kickoff return by senior free safety Bryant Kang, giving Blair the ball deep in Clarksburg territory.
The Coyotes responded with a takeaway of their own on the very next play as McKinney intercepted Perez near the goal line and returned it to the Coyotes’ 14-yard line. They would fall victim to another turnover on their next drive, though, as Spiess fumbled after making a catch at the Coyotes’ 34-yard line.
Ntankeu and the Blair offense needed only three plays to find the end zone again, finishing with a 28-yard touchdown run to make it 34-10 with seven minutes to play.
Freshman quarterback Taye Robinson started the Coyotes’ next drive with a 24-yard run into Blazers territory. He and Perkins led the offense all the way down to the 15-yard line before the Coyotes committed their third turnover of the half, as a botched snap on third down was recovered by the Blazers’ senior linebacker Kyle Smith with under five minutes remaining.
“We just can’t turn the football over,” Plante said. “Anybody that sits and watches those games on Sundays says turnovers kill you, and then turnovers kill you. It just changed the whole complexion of the game.”
Blair began their next drive with a 59-yard Ntankeu run to the Clarksburg 4-yard line. A few plays later, senior running back Nahshon Orleans punched it in from six yards out to increase Blair’s lead to 41-10 with under three minutes left.
McKinney would return the ensuing kickoff to the Blazers’ 43-yard line, giving the Coyotes a chance to end on a positive note despite the game being out of reach. Perkins eventually found junior Desean Robinson for a 22-yard score to cut the lead to 41-17 just under the two-minute mark.
Clarksburg’s defense forced a final turnover on downs as Blair attempted to run out the clock, but Taye Robinson was intercepted by senior strong safety Caleb Francois near the end zone in the closing seconds of the game.
“There’s a lot of good gritty activity in there, a lot of gritty tough guys in there,” Plante said. “But again, it’s got to be four quarters of play. It’s got to be. We’re young, and that’s just the bottom line.”
The Coyotes will look to keep their 3-0 record at home untarnished later this week as they host the Einstein Titans (4-4), who are coming off a 34-12 victory over Northwood last week. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 pm on Friday.
Top: The Blair Blazers came out flat, but took advantage of Clarksburg miscues in the second half to seal victory.
Next: Clarksburg quarterback Joey Perkins (3) hands to senior runner Ben Spiess (10) during Friday’s game at Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring.
Next: Blair’s senior wide receiver Maada Kposowa (1) with the ball after a catch.
Photos by Billy Owens for Germantown Pulse