Something was missing as the Fighting Scots plowed through a cloud of blue smoke just prior to hosting Seventy First Saturday afternoon. Many of those in attendance for Friday’s weather-suspended game returned to Pate Stadium the very next day, and while the weather forecast predicted thunderstorms once again, skies remained fairly clear.
But the energy that crackled in the air Friday night wasn’t quite the same as the Scots resumed their season-opening game with 8:26 left in the first quarter. Nonetheless, after suffering through a few early miscues on both sides of the ball, Scotland defeated the Falcons 35-6 and showcased just enough to give fans cause for excitement as the season progresses.
So long as they bring the intensity.
“Whether it was the restart of Friday’s game or not, we all came out flat as a team at the onset,” said Scotland head coach Richard Bailey. “With that said, I’m proud of the effort we put in, and the little mistakes we made are mistakes that we will clean up in time.”
Contrasting the furious tone they set Friday night, the Fighting Scots appeared sluggish in the opening minutes Saturday and nearly let the Falcons climb within striking distance. Scotland starting quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe struggled to regain the almost effortless rhythm he established the night before, under-throwing receivers early and losing a fumble on his first offensive drive, which was recovered by Falcons freshman Paul Underwood.
The Scots’ defensive front was also out-of-sync in the first quarter, best evidenced by three encroachment penalties that came within minutes of one another. Scotland outside linebacker Artemis Robinson would close the quarter with a sack on Falcons quarterback Jamel Joliffe for a 10-yard loss, but by that point the Seventy First ground-based attack had eaten up nearly the entire time of possession.
And on the first play of the second quarter, the Falcons stunned Scotland with a 36-yard lob from Joliffe to senior Brandon Fife for a touchdown. Suddenly the Fighting Scots’ 13-0 lead they built one night earlier had been cut to 13-6, eliciting a hush from the crowded stands.
“Seventy First is a powerful team that can surprise you if you’re not careful,” said Scotland senior inside linebacker Chris Moss. “We made some mental errors, but we got it together pretty quickly and overall it was a good performance.”
The Falcons touchdown appeared to wake up the Scots, who from that point forward looked like a completely different team. Not only was it the last time that Seventy First would score, it would be the beginning of five consecutive Falcons drives that ended with three-and-outs and just two first downs in the second half of regulation.
During that stretch, the linebacking tandem of Robinson and Moss absolutely terrorized the Falcons, who ran the ball with six different players that yielded limited-to-no success.
While the defense completely shut down Seventy First, Scotland’s offense produced several big-time plays as Ratliffe caught fire once again.
The score became 20-6 in the second quarter after a pitch to Scotland rusher Jalen McLean was taken to the two-yard line, setting up a touchdown run for fellow back Josh McPhatter.
It was merely a primer for a 15-point Scotland third quarter that built an insurmountable lead that the Falcons (a team built on controlling the clock and keeping games low-scoring) couldn’t overcome.
Arguably the offensive play of the game occurred on the first of two scoring drives for the Fighting Scots, as Ratliffe displayed the pocket awareness and accuracy of a quarterback with several starts under his belt. After sensing a Falcons blitz, Ratliffe escaped the pocket and made a throw on the run to a wide-open McLean, who turned on the jets for a 61-yard touchdown scamper. Ratliffe would run the very next possession into the end zone for a successful two-point conversion to make the score 28-6.
Over the course of Friday and Saturday, Scotland senior wide receiver Justin Brown appeared to develop a chemistry with Ratliffe that could continue to develop over the course of the season. After the two connected on a 21-yard touchdown strike Friday just prior to play being suspended, Brown set up the final score of the game after converting a Ratliffe dump pass into a 38-yard gain that led to Ratliffe scoring on a quarterback keeper shortly thereafter.
After a fourth quarter that saw fatigue creep into the Falcons, a team featuring several two-way players, Scotland took a victory formation and ended their Saturday night early.
A running theme amongst Scotland’s players and coaches after the win was the importance of ironing out the rough edges in the days ahead. With a week two opponent (New Hanover) that has more than 40 seniors on their roster, the Fighting Scots know that they will be encountering a nuanced, disciplined squad that will likely be their biggest challenge of the young season.
Himself having an impactful game in his first varsity starting nod, sophomore safety Robert McCoy believes that the balanced mentality his team will need to have a successful 2012 will continue to develop.
“I personally thought like I rushed getting to the ball too much because I was so pumped on Friday,” McCoy said. “We have to play with urgency and rely on our seniors for leadership, but we also need to relax and have fun playing the game as well.”
Scotland 35, Seventy First 6
SHS — Jaylend Ratliffe 11-yard TD run (Utter PAT GOOD)
SHS— Ratliffe to Justin Brown 21-yard TD pass (PAT FAILED)
71ST —Jamel Joliffe to Brandon Fife 36-yard TD pass (2-point conversion FAILED)
SHS — Josh McPhatter 1-yard TD run (PAT GOOD)
SHS —Ratliffe to Jalen McLean 61-yard TD pass (2-point conversion GOOD)
SHS— Ratliffe 2-yard TD run (PAT GOOD)
TEAM STATISTICS ;
71ST: Jamel Joliffe 14 carries-70 yards, Paul Underwood 7 carries-18 yards, Andre Frank 1 carry-14 yards, Brandon Fife 3 carries-13 yards, Marques Lock 2 carries-11 yards, Jonathan McNeil 7 carries-10 yards.
SHS: Jaylend Ratliffe 15 carries-103 yards, Jalen McLean 11 carries-61 yards, Josh McPhatter 7 carries-40 yards, Tre Thomas 4 carries-11 yards, TreShawn Gregory 1 carry-4 yards.
71ST: Jamel Joliffe 4-12, 45 yards, 0 INT.
SHS: Jaylend Ratliffe 8-13, 189 yards, 2 passing TDs, 2 rushing TDs, 0 INT.
71ST: Brandon Fife 2 catches- 38 yards, Andre Frank 1 catch-5 yards, Paul Underwood 1 catch-2 yards.
SHS: Justin Brown 3 catches- 70 yards, Jalen McLean 1 catch-61 yards, Tyron Jones 3 catches-43 yards, Justin Causey 1 catch- 15 yards.
RECORDS: 71ST 0-1, SHS 1-0