Last of nine fumbles gives Cardinals win over Washington
“Loose balls” is a term usually reserved to basketball.
But last Friday at Washington’s Terry Marcus Stadium it was a series of fumbles and havoc-causing turnovers by the Patriots and Spring Mills that never allowed the good-sized crowd to get comfortable with either side’s play.
In the end it was Spring Mills loudly celebrating its 24-20 win. The Cardinals gladly accepted the six turnovers they grabbed from the Patriots, the last being a game-deciding, 60-yard fumble-return score by gritty and efficient Demetreus Jalepes that finally shoved Spring Mills in front for the last time.
So elated with the school’s first win over a West Virginia-based school were the Cardinals that an impromptu celebration was quickly arranged through social media and when the team arrived back on its pristine campus in northern Berkeley County a noisy crowd greeted it with music being sounded over the football stadium’s public address system and hundreds of vehicles with headlights shining ready to shower the players with congratulations.
The Cardinals had recovered five fumbles and stolen one intercepted pass. But it was barely enough to counter their own mistakes, which threatened in the second half to cause another failure for the second-year school.
By far the best-executed offensive series of the night came when Spring Mills took the opening kickoff and worked its way some 63 yards in 17 clock-eating plays to earn a 7-0 lead on Jalepes one-yard run. The Cardinals had faced a fourth-and-four situation on Washington’s 41, but kept the budding drive moving along when quarterback Lane Riner managed a four-yard, first down-giving run.
From that point forward, the game became drenched with loose balls, missed opportunities (especially by Spring Mills) and second-half lead changes.
Washington lost a fumble to the Cardinals’ Cory Wyttenbach on its first play from scrimmage.
But two plays later, Riner was intercepted by Gavin Maccubbin.
Four plays later, a poor snap on an attempted Washington punt was recovered by Spring Mills’ Colton Henson.
But Riner dropped a fumble to the Patriots at Washington’s one-yard line.
Soon enough, Chase Maccubbin fumbled in his own end zone but somehow the loose football eluded three Cardinals and Maccubbin was able to recover it himself for a safety instead of a Springs Mills’ touchdown.
The Cardinals took a precarious 9-0 lead into halftime.
In the wild-and-wooly first minutes of the third quarter, Washington made its initial stab at actually dumping Spring Mills’ lead somewhere along the sidelines.
A high snap sailed over Cardinal quarterback Riner and was claimed on the move by Washington’s Tayjuhn Coble. Coble fled about 32 yards for Washington’s first points of the confusing night. The Patriot deficit was only 9-6.
Later in the often maddening third quarter, a concentrated Spring Mills drive along the ground led the Cardinals to the Patriot seven with a first down. Washington showed its mettle and wouldn’t allow anything, finally taking control on its three.
But Clint Whittington hurried and sacked Chase Maccubbin, causing another fumble that was controlled by the Cardinals at the Patriot one. Riner found Cory Hammond with a scoring pass that boosted the lead back to 17-6.
But no lead was safe. Neither was much of anything for either team.
On the ensuing kickoff, Washington’s Jay Fields caught a caromed football that bounced off a teammate and romped all the way to the Spring Mills three. Chase Maccubbin scored immediately. And Spring Mills had only a quivering 17-12 lead that soon would be gone.
Trailing by five points, the Patriots tried an onside kick that they recovered to make the Cardinal situation that much more unstable.
The fourth period began with Washington moving toward its first lead.
A 10-yard keeper by Chase Maccubbin sent the Patriots ahead, 20-17.
On Washington’s next possession, a poor snap sailed past Maccubbin with the Cardinals’ Jalepes moving to the recovery. Jalepes and a teammate set sail for the Washington end zone . . . which they found . . . and the Cardinals were back on top, 24-20.
Time was left for Washington to keep both sides wondering what would happen next.
Maccubbin and company found their way to the Cardinal six. A sweep reached the Springs Mills end zone, but a block in the back penalty negated the points and the game-changing threat ended when Maccubbin’s scramble was blunted at the 13.
Two plays later the clock was gone. And an on-field celebration by Spring Mills was only rivaled by the one being demonstrated by its good-sized following in the stands.
It was the school’s first-ever win against a West Virginia-based team.
The Cardinals had accepted six Washington turnovers . . . and overcome their own misfortunes. . . to register a win worth celebrating.