The 2012 high school football season opened Thursday night with the 3rd annual DFRC Kickoff Classic which saw the Sussex Central Golden Knights defeat the Lake Forest Spartans, 6-0.
The two teams met last season, with the Golden Knights winning another close one, 14-7. This time around was no different, as the two squads were entrenched in a defensive battle throughout the entire game.
Neither team could gain any offensive momentum in a first half that saw both teams hit the locker room at half time scoreless.
In the second half, it was more of the same. Neither squad was able to put points on the board through the third quarter, so we headed to the final stanza deadlocked at 0-0.
With both defenses playing so well, it was going to take a break on either side to see points put on the board. More than half-way through the fourth quarter, Sussex Central got the first break.
The Golden Knights defense forced Spartan senior running back Robert Ortiz to cough up the ball in their own end. The ball was recovered by Central senior safety Greg Taylor who returned the fumble recovery all the way to 27 yard-line.
“I saw the ball on the ground and went after it,” said Taylor. “It was a real big play for the defense to step up for us there.”
Three offensive plays later, Sha’Quandas Murray punched in a 2-yard touchdown run to put the Golden Knights on top. Central failed to tack on the extra point after the holder wasn’t able to corral the snap. So, with only minutes left in the game, Sussex Central had the lead, 6-0.
Next, was the defining play of the game, and an unfortunate one for Lake Forest.
A poor kickoff gave the Spartans very good field position with plenty of time left on the clock to score. On the very first play of the series, Lake Forest QB Ty’Kee Scott broke loose down the sidelines out of the option formation. Scott looked as if he was potentially headed for the end zone, or at least within distance of putting Lake in very good position to tie or go ahead.
However, as Scott was racing down the sidelines, whistles blew. An official had mistakenly blown the whistle, thinking a Lake Forest player with the ball had been tackled. In reality, Scott was still running with the ball.
The mistake cost Lake Forest a golden opportunity to score and perhaps win the game with an extra point.
“I feel we were the better team,” said an obviously distraught Scott after the game. “I’m very disappointed, I made the best read of the year and the ref blows the whistle.”
Page 2 of 2 - “(The official) came over and apologized,” said Lake Forest Head Coach Freddie Johnson after the game. “But, it was clearly seven points.”
With the ball now around mid-field, the Spartans still had the ball and time to drive down the field for the go-ahead score. Eight plays later, Lake Forest was down to the 12 yard line, facing a 4th and 3 yards to go. Scott handed the ball off to Ortiz who was hit immediately and fell forward for only two yards. The turnover-on-downs gave Sussex Central the ball with under a minute left. And with no more timeouts on the Lake Forest side, the game ended with three kneel downs.
For Lake, it’s a tough loss to swallow, especially to open the season.
“They’re a good football team over there,” said Johnson. “But, we made mistakes that cost us. I told the team if we were to lose they weren’t going to do things to beat us, we’re going to beat us.”
On the Sussex Central side of things, it’s a sigh of relief, and perhaps an early season wakeup call for this young group of Golden Knights.
“Yeah, a whole new group made a lot of mistakes,” said Sussex Central Head Coach John Wells. “But, they were forced by a good football team tonight.”