Patriot Games

Published 12:35 am Saturday, September 13, 2008

Jerel Foster rushed for touchdowns of 56 and 44 yards as Pike Liberal Arts School downed Fort Dale Academy 22-16 in Greenville on Friday night.

The Patriots piled up 271 yards of rushing, but Fort Dale head coach James “Speed” Sampley was more concerned with an offensive showing by his team that left him frustrated.

“There is no way you can play that badly on offense and expect to beat anybody,” said Sampley. “I’m pretty sure we weren’t coached well and ready to play this game. But we’re going to fix it.”

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Fort Dale finished with 207 yards – a big bulk of that total coming on a last gasp 80-yard touchdown drive in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. Between the start of the game and the final play, there were enough bobbled snaps, fumbled hand-off exchanges and penalties to keep Sampley up well into the night.

Fort Dale’s offense never found any consistency against the Patriots.

“I don’t know how many bad snaps we had – maybe 10, but you can’t have that…you’re throwing away plays when you do that,” said Sampley. “Maybe it was just a bad night, I don’t know.”

Fort Dale was also flagged 12 times for 100 yards.

“These are things you can’t do and expect to be a good football team,” said Sampley. “I think we also got away from some of the things we need to do to be a good football team, like running the football out of the I-formation.”

PLAS opened the scoring with a 65-yard touchdown run by quarterback Trey Walters. The rest of the first half was an exchange of good plays, bad plays and punts before an Eli Blackmon kick pinned the Patriots back at their own 4-yard line. On fourth and one, the same snap problems plaguing Fort Dale cost PLAS when the ball sailed over punter Douglas Hawkins’ head and out of the endzone for an Eagles’ safety.

Fort Dale’s ensuing possession was typical of the night.

After a 26-yard kick return by Daniel Nolan and an 11-yard scamper by quarterback Dustin Till, the offense had the ball on the Patriots’ 22-yard line with less than a minute to go before halftime. But the ball bounced past Till for a 16-yard loss, killing any hopes of a score.

“We were moving the ball right there and maybe could have kicked a field goal,” said Sampley.

PLAS led 7-2 at halftime.

Not that Fort Dale was the only team having problems handling the football.

Following the break, the Patriots’ offense had to punt out of a rare fourth and 47 yards-to-go situation after a snap over Walters’ head and subsequent clipping penalty.

Todd Burkett was able to return the punt 15 yards, which set up two powerful runs by Nolan of 13 and 21 yards, planting the Eagles on the Patriots 2-yard line. Jeffery Stead plowed in from there, giving Fort Dale the 9-7 lead.

It was short lived.

Foster – held in check up to that point by Fort Dale’s defense – burst around left end on an option play and scored on a 44-yard run.

PLAS was close to sealing the game midway through the fourth quarter on Fort Dale’s 16-yard line, but Foster, fighting for extra yardage, fumbled the ball into the endzone where Burkett recovered for the Eagles.

But after flirting with disaster all night, fumbled balls and miscues finally caught up with Fort Dale.

Till was forced to fall on a low snap in his endzone. PLAS led 15-9 after the safety and following the kickoff from FDA, Foster scored on a 56-yard run with 4:39 remaining.

Till scored on a 9-yard run with 1:04 left in the game and PLAS recovered the onside kick.

Fort Dale (2-1, 1-1) travels to face Hooper Academy on Friday night.