Eagle eye of Cougars’ D delivers
And some more.
And some more.
But never once, despite a cavalcade of mad scrambles by Boca Ciega quarterback Shaquille Bradford, did the Countryside defensive backs ever let a wide receiver get behind them.
Well, none that Bradford could see, anyway.
In the end, it was Bradford scrambling one last time, and getting taken to the ground as his options — and his team’s chances for a huge opening-night win — withered.
Countryside’s mighty pass defenders — Alex Dixon, Cody Chmelik, Tyler Serpo and Denzel Thompson — gave up nothing, and gave the Cougars a 21-20 victory Friday night.
“That was pretty impressive,” said Countryside’s Jared Davis, a winner in his head coaching debut after an uneven spring and fall that had some folks — myself included — doubting the Cougars.
The victory doesn’t erase those doubts. The passing game still isn’t clicking, despite one 52-yard touchdown. The pass rush was non-existent. Special teams was uncharacteristically frightening.
But here’s what Countryside does have — an offensive line good enough to sustain drives, two terrific linebackers in Adam Vinson and Terry Johnson, and arguably the best defensive backfield in the county.
“Defense will carry us early,” Davis said. “The offense will come along.”
After Bradford ran in a score on the Pirates’ first drive, the Cougars defense bent, but broke the error-prone Pirates.
Bogie got two more scores, on a kickoff return and a 2-yard run set up by a bad punt snap, but Bradford was never able to find as talented a group of wide receivers as the county has.
Make no mistake, Bradford’s feet are much too happy, and he’d be better served looking quickly for his fleet of tall, physical wide receivers on shorter routes, but he ran for more than 100 yards (if you don’t count the 438 he had scrambling behind the line of scrimmage).
Still, if the Pirates are going to win this year they will be better off with 200 yards passing from their quarterback, not 100 yards rushing.
It’s stunning, really, that the Pirates didn’t turn one, just one, of his scrambles into a long touchdown pass. At the high school level, a quarterback who can scramble has an advantage over defensive backs forced to cover wide receivers for 15-20 seconds at a time.
But not Friday.
“We knew he was going to do that,” Dixon said. “We played him last year and he did the same thing.”
That many times? For that long?
“Well, we work on scramble drills, but not for quite that long,” Davis said.
Pinned on its 1 to start the second quarter, Countryside managed one important, potentially game-saving drive: 16 plays, 57 yards, 9:41 off the clock after a few series of putrid offense to start the game.
It settled down a team that already seemed to be circling the drain, one quarter into the 2010 season.
“We didn’t score, but that felt like a victory,” Davis said. “The guys came off and felt like they had just picked up a victory.”
Or picked one off. Three plays later, Dixon had an interception, followed by a long touchdown pass to tie the game.
Two plays later, Johnson picked off a short slant and returned it for a 14-7 halftime lead.
“That was big,” Dixon said. “That changed things.”
Thompson’s interception near the end zone killed off another Bogie scoring try in the third quarter following some more quarterback improvisation.
Bogie made it a game, and even recovered a fumble in the final minute to add a little extra drama, but it was Dixon, Serpo, Chmelik and Thompson snuffing the Pirates one last time, after two more agonizing, and ill-fated, scrambles.
“As long as the defensive line and linebackers kept after him,” Dixon said, “we had the rest covered.”
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