Thursday, August 30, 2012
Indians ‘give ball away’ in setback
By BARRY BURLESON
The Byhalia Indians got bit by the turnover bug Friday night in their home opener.
They gave the ball away six times and fell 21-14 to Senatobia.
“We beat ourselves,” coach John Danley told his squad, huddled around him at midfield after the game. “Six turnovers – you can’t win like that. We have to learn to take care of the football.”
Then he urged his team to bounce back this week in practice.
“Everybody has to do their jobs,” Danley said. “It has to be about team. Me is small. Team is big.”
He called his 3A team’s battle with the 4A Warriors “a warm-up game” as the Indians work toward district play September 28.
“We hit them hard,” he said, “but they came up with the big plays. You can’t take anything away from them. They’re a well-coached football team.”
The host Indians pounded the ball down the Warriors’ throats in the first possession of the game. Andrey Collins and Devonte Norman did the bulk of the work, most it following Dandy Dozen lineman Davion Johnson. It was Johnson’s first game of the season after missing the opener at Tishomingo County due to an eligibility question that was answered in Byhalia’s favor.
“We just loaded up and ran behind him,” Danley said.
The 77-yard march, that lasted almost seven minutes, concluded with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Norman. Juan Hernandez kicked the extra point.
Senatobia responded quickly during its first possession. On second down, Ky Ky Austin found some open field and traveled 60 yards for six. Ben Holler was successful on the kick. It was tied at 7 with 4:18 to go in the first quarter.
DeAndre Buchanan returned the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to the Warriors’ 44. The Indians, thanks to a punishing ground game, moved the ball to the 9 and a first and goal.
Then came the first turnover and a big momentum changer. Senatobia’s Tevin Wooten picked up the loose football and returned it 94 yards for a touchdown. Holler’s kick put the Warriors on top 14-7.
Byhalia fumbled the ball away again on the ensuing kickoff return. But the defense tightened. Caleb Grant had a big sack and then Curtis Akins and Terence Phinisee came up with a big hit on third and 11.
The two defenses dominated the rest of the first half.
To start the second half, the Byhalia defense forced a three and out – thanks to a hit for loss by Phinisee and Buchanan.
The Indians then moved deep into Senatobia territory before coughing up the football just 13 yards from the end zone.
“We had our chances,” Coach Danley said.
The Indian defense rose to the challenge once again. Keenan Jones intercepted a pass at the Senatobia 20.
The offense cashed in this opportunity. Quarterback Markeise Rodgers scored from 13 yards out on an option play. Hernandez’ kick knotted the contest at 14 with 3:16 to go in the third.
Byhalia had a shot to take the lead in the fourth when Norman grabbed the football off the ground on a short punt and returned it 16 yards to the Senatobia 31. However, a holding flag pushed the Indians backwards. They went for the first on fourth and 17 but the pass to the end zone fell incomplete.
A fired-up bunch of Warriors then drove the ball 61 yards for the game-winning points. Tevin Wink and Wooten had big runs before Austin went in standing from 8 yards away. Holler was good on his third extra-point kick of the evening.
The never-say-die Indians tried to rally late for the tie. But after a couple of passes from Rodgers to Kenneth Wilson that moved the ball to the Senatobia 35, the Warriors intercepted the ball with five seconds remaining.
“I saw some good things,” Coach Danley said. “We have to continue to work hard. The defense was solid. Offensively, we’re a work in progress.
“We just let this one slip through our fingers. But I know the kids will use this one as a lesson.”
Next up for the Indians (with a 1-1 record) is an even bigger school. They visit 5A Center Hill this Friday night. The Mustangs from DeSoto County lost 20-17 last week at 6A Tupelo.
“It will be another challenge,” Danley said. “We need a good week of practice.”
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