G-A holds off Rockets to get back to win column

RACHEL BARTLETT, Echo Pilot intern
G-A senior Jared Starliper works to break loose from a James Buchanan defender after catching a pass on Kaley Field Friday night.

The Greencastle-Antrim Blue Devils never trailed Friday night on Kaley Field, but they had to hold on for dear life to produce a 31-28 win over James Buchanan Rockets, ending a two-game losing skid.

“I'm happy for the win, but we put them back in it,” said head coach Chuck Tinninis.

The first quarter started off strong for the Devil offense. After Andrew Votral caught the punt at the 24 yard line, Demetrius Burton ran the ball down to the 5 yard line. Votral moved the ball an additional yard before a group of Devils bulldozed through the Rocket defense for the first touchdown of the night. Kurt Hansen's kick was good, adding another point to the board. After Bobby Rider, Tony Dunagan and Matt Oberholzer all had tackles on the Rocket offense, Sam Sprague blocked the Rocket punt. The ball tumbled all the way back to the end zone where the Devils picked it up for a safety, adding two more points to the board.

Luke Kayga, Sprague and Dunagan each had key tackles before Kayga intercepted the ball and ran to the 43 yard line. After Burton ran for 44 yards in three plays, Votral and Spencer Meyers ran it for another four yards. After a penalty flag on JB, the ball was moved to the 4 yard line. Burton toted the ball to the three and then Meyers ran the ball in for another Devil touchdown.

Burton ran the ball in for an additional two points. The first quarter ended with the Devils leading, 17-0, the safety and two point conversion being key as the game progressed.

The freshman Burton ended up with 167 yards on 20 carries for the game, a feather in his young career.

Tinninis said of the youngster, “He's getting his feet on the ground. He's gonna be a good back, and he did some nice things. He gives us an added dimension we didn't have.”

During the second quarter, the ball was passed back and forth between teams, with neither team making any plays for points. Towards the end of the quarter, JB took over offensive control of the ball. Even with tackles from Dunagan and Graham Horst, the Rockets could not be stopped. With 12 seconds left in the half, JB scored its first touchdown and kicked the extra point. The half ended with G-A still in the lead, 17-7, over James Buchanan.

The second half of the game was an even match for both teams. The third quarter started when Burton, Sprague, Votral and James Hines came together to run the ball down the field. Hines, after getting the ball from Meyers, ran the ball in for a touchdown, adding another six points to G-A's total.

Despite the seemingly comfortable lead, the Rockets were not ready to relent. Even after two tackles from Oberholzer and four incomplete passes within goal range, JB managed to score another touchdown and the PAT. Tinninis remarked, “Our defense needs to defend the big plays. When the guy is out on you, it's one-on-one and it doesn't matter which position you are playing.” The quarter ended with the Devils leading 24-14.

Sprague and Burton worked well together in the third quarter, toting the ball for seven plays before Hines got control of the ball and ran in for another touchdown. Hansen's kick was good, adding another point to the board for his team. When the Rockets got offensive control, they were quick with their plays and scored a touchdown immediately. The Devils were able to block the extra point, however, to keep the Rockets at bay.

This time G-A sputtered on offense and the Rockets rose to the occasion, scoring another touchdown. A two point conversion made it a three-point game. The Devils weren’t able to eat up much clock with the offense and the Rockets had another shot. This time Matt Christman pulled down an interception that finally quieted the upstart Rockets.

Tinninis, happy with the win, still said afterwards, “We gotta finish and we gotta be more disciplined.”