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Early Eagles TD awakens Cougars

October 22, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - Most coaches wait an eternity for the slightest shift of momentum.

Hedgesville's Dave Lopez got what he needed with a snap of his fingers.

"I thought that was it," he said. "Then, they got that kickoff return."

In less time than it takes to spell Hedgesville, the Eagles jumped out to a 7-0 lead. It was gone just as quickly, though, as Jefferson got the early score back and then some in a dominating first-half offensive performance that led to a 45-22 homecoming victory.

In the ebb and flow of the game, Hedgesville's opening burst was a dripping eyedropper compared to the Cougars' tidal wave to come.

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Jefferson's Ryland Newman fumbled the opening kickoff over to Hedgesville on the Cougars 37. Michael Lopez ran a sweep to the right for all 37 yards, a touchdown and a 7-0 Eagles lead 21 seconds into the game.

What looked to be the best thing that could have happened to Hedgesville ended up being the absolute worst. It got undefeated Jefferson's attention.

"I think that fumble and the first-play touchdown was a wake-up call to our guys," said Jefferson coach Richard Mills. "We were flat, but when that happened, they woke up and began to play."

Hedgesville's Eli Griffin lined his kickoff down the center of the field to Jefferson's Josh Brown. He took it at the 12 with a burst to the right, turned the corner at the 35 and was gone down the sidelines for a 88-yard touchdown.

Sam Moore added the extra point, and Hedgesville's momentum lasted all of 14 seconds because it was 7-7 with 11:25 remaining in the first quarter.

Over the rest of the first half, the Cougars proved they don't like being awakened.

Quarterback Patrick Burns hit Brendan McLaughlin on a 61-yard touchdown pass and hooked up with tight end Seth Gregory on a 5-yard scoring strike for a 21-7 lead by the end of the first quarter.

"Jefferson, by far, is the best team that we've played," Dave Lopez said. "What they did, goes without saying. We were flat and didn't play well in the first half. It's the worst we've been in the last couple of weeks. And then, Jefferson got going and ran the ball."

Newman made up for his early fumble with 170 yards rushing on 18 carries, including a 66-yard score in the second quarter, and finished with a 67-yard TD burst in the fourth. Burns hit on 4 of 6 first-half passes for 133 yards as Jefferson built a 38-7 halftime lead.

Hedgesville, for some reason, decided to make a game of it in the second half. In a heavy downpour, the Eagles scored on a Daniel Kershner 12-yard sweep and, after failing to score from the 1 early in the fourth quarter, they added a safety to cut the deficit to 38-15.

"The big thing is they came out of the lockerroom and played in the second half," Dave Lopez said. "A lot of teams would have stayed there, but they came out and scored a couple of touchdowns. We could have got another one, but it wasn't meant to be. The big thing is they came out and played."

Jefferson was slowed by 11 penalties and failed to keep the momentum in the second half, despite owning the 28-point lead.

"We were flat in the second half and my play-calling sucked," Mills said. "We pulled back when we should have kept going at it. The kids played hard, but I did a terrible job of calling the plays."

The Cougars managed just 133 of their 396 total yards in the second half, with half of them coming on Newman's second TD run. Hedgesville, in turn, rolled up 165 of its 227 yards in the second half, capped by Richard Lane's 34-yard TD run to finish the scoring in the game. Lane finished with 94 yards rushing.

It turned a Jefferson blowout into a game a lot closer than it seemed.

"The good thing about this game is it's done," Mills said. "We got through it, we won and now we have to go on."

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