Prep football: Cadets down Eagles

BELPRE – On most Friday nights, having possession of the football for seven plays totaling 1:46 of playtime leads to a very long, rough game with a miserable outcome.

But despite four turnovers in the first quarter and just 21 yards of offense in the opening stanza the Fort Frye Cadets confounded statisticians everywhere as they battled back to claim a 41-28 victory over the host Belpre Golden Eagles in Belpre Friday.

“I felt like we came in a little unprepared for the environment,” said Fort Frye senior Chandler Lang, who rushed for two touchdowns, threw for another and had 20 tackles on defense. “We had to pick up the intensity a little more. We knew if they kept scoring they’d keep the momentum.”

Instead of keeping the momentum that saw them build a 14-0 advantage through the first 12:05 of play, the Golden Eagles watched their strong start to the game fall apart.

And it happened in dramatic fashion.

First, standout running back Manny Tulius went down with an ankle injury and didn’t return.

Then the Cadet offense found life behind Lang, who guided Fort Frye 66 yards on 11 plays to answer the second Eagle touchdown to halve the deficit, slowly turning the tide.

“We knew they were up after last week’s (54-0) win,” said Fort Frye football coach Eric Huck. “Turning the ball over four times to start the game did not help.”

And the Fort Frye defense, which was pinned four times inside its own 35 yard line in the first quarter on those turnovers, turned the tide when freshman Garrett Lochary intercepted Tavian Miller’s pass to setup the second Cadet score.

“We knew if they kept scoring, they’d keep the momentum,” Lang said. “If they got too big of a lead, they’d be hard to catch,” he continued.

Instead of being hard to catch, the Eagle offense that had been soaring early came crashing to the ground, largely due to the loss of Tullius. That injury put additional pressure on Miller, who certainly delivered as he picked up 103 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries and threw for another touchdown.

If not for better than a half dozen dropped passes – including two in the endzone – the Golden Eagles could well have kept the Cadets at bay, noted Belpre football coach Greg Adams.

“You couldn’t ask for a more outstanding effort from a young man,” Adams praised. “He tried to take over the game, and it’s not a one man game.”

Huck agreed, as his quarterback provided the counter-punch to Miller’s attack with 84 yards rushing and two touchdowns while also completing 8-of-15 passes for 82 yards and another score.

“Best player on the field tonight. I’m glad he plays for us,” Huck said of Lang. “It’s not just Chandler, though. Shuster had a great run. Zach Prichard did a great job on their No. 6.”

Tying the game up at 14-14, the Cadets saw the Golden Eagles prove how far they’ve come since being winless just two seasons ago as Belpre answered with a 10 play, 77 yard drive as time wound down in the first half to take a 21-14 lead into the break.

“Belpre is a good football team,” Huck said. “They are much improved. They have some players.”

Of course, the Cadets have their own playmakers too, and it took a grand total of nine seconds in the second half to showcase that fact.

Cadet senior Zach Prichard took the second half kickoff 80 yards to the endzone, twice breaking through a crowd of Golden Eagle defenders to bring Fort Frye within one, 21-20, after the kick failed.

Following in Prichard’s footsteps with a dynamic run, senior Colten Shuster gave the Cadets the lead for good when he broke a half-dozen tackles to race 49 yards to the endzone with 5:37 to play in the third quarter.

The Cadets took that 28-21 advantage into the final period of play, and they didn’t let up.

Lang connected with Prichard on a three-yard pass for another touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Forced to punt after another drive stalled at the Golden Eagle 30, Fort Frye pinned Belpre at its own 2-yard line when Lang successfully angles the punt out of bounds.

Three plays later Belpre was forced to punt from its own endzone, and an errant snap led to just a 13 yard punt that Shuster returned to the Golden Eagle 1-yard line. One play later, Derek Layton found the endzone for a 41-21 lead.

Despite being down by 20 points with just under seven minutes to play, the Golden Eagles continued to pound the football on the ground, where they held a 195-140 yardage advantage despite the loss of Tullius’ services.

“I’m proud of these young men. They put forth a good effort,” Adams said.

After Layton’s touchdown, Belpre covered 73 yards on a lengthy 15 play drive that ended with Miller scoring his third touchdown of the game, a 10-yard scamper, with 17.2 seconds to play in regulation, as by then it was far too little, too late to catch the Cadets who improved to 2-0 on the season. “It feels great,” Lang said. “First week, it was a close game. We had to make a stop at the end. This week we had to come from behind. It just shows we have a lot of heart.”

Belpre fell to 1-1 on the young season after picking up a 54-0 win over Bishop Rosecrans last week.

“We’ll get better. We’ve got games ahead of us,” Adams said.