Having one of its main offensive weapons limited to 61 yards in the first half, committing 175 yards in penalties and turning the ball over three times turned out to be nothing but a few blips on the radar for the Hylton Bulldogs and that figured.
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After all, the Bulldogs have averaged of 43.7 points through their first five games, although when Hylton fell behind 28-7 late in the first half, it may have seemed as if the Battlefield Bobcats would be able to slow them down.
Then came the drive Hylton coach Tony Lilly said was the turning point.
Bulldogs quarterback Donovan Williams found Yannis Nguetta on a 27-yard scoring pass with 15.2 seconds left in the second quarter to pull Hylton within two touchdowns at halftime.
According to Lilly, the confidence that drive instilled was huge and the proof was in the pudding. Battlefield was held scoreless the rest of the way, Hylton was finally able to hold on to the ball, and Hylton’s option-oriented offense began to click, allowing the Bulldogs to hand visiting Battlefield its first loss of the season, 40-28, in a non-conference football game Thursday night.
That Battlefield (5-1), which was averaging 32.5 points per game, went scoreless in the second half was as much a testament to Hylton’s defense, which sacked quarterback Matt Gallagher three times, as it was to injuries. Defensive back Corey Parker rolled his ankle early in the first half and did not return, while running back Sam Drzal apparently suffered a broken foot, according to Battlefield coach Mark Cox.
“Parker may miss one to two weeks, but Drzal’s injury is one we’re concerned about,” Cox said.
With one of its key defenders and a player Cox called “one of the key players on our team” out in the second half, Battlefield was forced to use sophomore running back Chris Ferrill more than he has been used this season. The injuries also caused Gallagher to move out of the pocket and left him more susceptible to being sacked or hurried.
Two misplays by Hylton cost them dearly in the first quarter.
After Battlefield turned the ball over on downs on the opening possession, Hylton moved the ball past midfield before D. J. Wright fumbled and Battlefield’s Brett Reid recovered at the 33.
The Bobcats took advantage with an 8-play, 67-yard drive that ended when Gallagher ran it in from the 1 to make it 7-0. A 33-yard connection with Kerxton preceded the short scoring run.
A bad snap that led to a 13-yard loss on fourth down by Hylton gave Battlefield possession again at the Bobcats’ 36. Two plays later, Kerxton hauled in a 47-yard scoring pass from Gallagher to make it 14-0.
Three Hylton penalties helped Battlefield on its next drive which ended when Kerxton hauled in a 63-yard pass from Gallagher as the Bobcats took a 21-0 lead with 11:47 left in the half.
Hylton finally got untracked late in the first half. After an 8-yard scoring run by Ricky Slade was nullified by a penalty, Williams ran it in from the 7, to pull Hylton within 21-7.
Gallagher threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Kerxton with 5:20 left in the half. Battlefield was driving late in the quarter before fumbling to Hylton. Williams led a furious drive that was highlighted by two catches from Nguetta, including the 27-yard scoring pass with 15 seconds left in the half.
Hylton scored twice in the third quarter, once on a 3-yard run by Williams, who set up the score with a 17-yard run from scrimmage, and again on a 24-yard run by Slade, in one of the few times Slade was able to reel off a big run.
Slade, who tied a state record by scoring eight touchdowns last week against Patriot, was contained fairly well by Battlefield’s defense, Cox said. Slade finished with 150 yards on 22 carries.
“The little guy got his yards, but I was pleased with how the defense on him overall,” Cox said. “We had opportunities to win the game.”
Gallagher had a good game, throwing for 359 yards and three touchdowns (three passing), but 11 of his 13 incomplete passes came in the second half.
When Jake Ward scored on a 31-yard run with 5:40 left to play to give Hylton a 33-28 lead, Battlefield had one last opportunity, but Gallagher missed completing two passes to Kerxton (including one with just more than a minute to play) and one to Matt Scott. Hylton added a late touchdown when Jared Austin recovered a fumble after Gallagher was sacked in the end zone.
For his part, Williams appeared more confident in the second half. According to Lilly, it was more a case of Williams (and the rest of his teammates) having fun than being confident.
“We came out flat in the first half,” Lilly said. “I told them [the players] at halftime, ‘If you want the game, you can get it. It’s there for you to take.’ In the second half, it was like [they said],’Enough of this. Let’s have some fun and play some football.”
Williams said he enjoyed playing in the option oriented offense the Bulldogs employed. Williams completed passes to six different receivers.
“Our talent level is there. We have a lot of weapons,” Williams said. “[Playing the option] gives us opportunities to showcase the talent we have.”
Cox said the game showed the Bobcats could compete at a high level, while Lilly said the Bulldogs learned they could overcome adversity.
BATTLEFIELD (5-1) 14 14 0 0 – 28
HYLTON (4-1) 0 13 14 13—40
B—Gallagher 1 run (Feehan kick), 6:18
B—Kerxton 47 pass from Gallagher (Feehan kick), 3:45
B—Kerxton 63 pass from Gallagher (Feehan kick), 11:47
H—Williams 7 run (Thompson kick), 9:29
B—Kerxton 7 pass from Gallagher (Feehan kick), 5:20
H—Nguetta 27 pass from Williams (kick failed), 15.2
H—Williams 3 run (Williams run), 3:46
H—Slade 24 run (kick failed), 1:34
H—Ward 31 run (run failed), 5:40
H—Austin fumble recovery in end zone (Thompson kick), 1:02
Rushing, Battlefield, Drzal 11-40, Ferrill 12-39, Boney 4-2, Cephus 1-1, Gallagher 6-(minus 13);Hylton, Slade 21-150, Williams 7-52, Ward 2-36, Wright 1-7, Bowers 1-4, Carroll 1-2.
Passing—Battlefield, Gallagher 23-38-0-359; Hylton, Williams 11-19-0-165.
Receiving—Battlefield, Kerxton 10-234, Scott 8-93, Shablom 2-15, DeCosta 1-5, Ferrill 1-7, Parker 1-5; Hylton, Nguetta 3-67, Perez 3-39, Wright 2-27, Slade 2-12, Bowers 1-15, Carroll 1-5.