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Oct. 1, 2004

Special teams doom Blair in road loss

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor

The Blazers started hot, scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the game. Sadly for them, however, it was the best they would get all night. Special teams mistakes greatly contributed to their defeat at the hands of the Blake Bengals, dropping Blair to 0-5.

Blair was defeated 24-8 by the Bengals thanks in large part to very poorly executed special teams plays. Tonight, Blake fans in the packed stadium went home happy from their homecoming game, but Blazers fans were left with yet another bad taste in their mouth. Not just from the diet soda at the snack bar, but from yet another loss in what has been a long season.

The Blazers (0-5) started sophomore Ross Williams at quarterback, and he looked very good out of the gate. Williams hooked up on a beautifully thrown 40-yard touchdown pass to Michael Stewart that gave Blair the lead. A two-point conversion made the score 8-0 Blair, surprising many Blake fans who had arrived late only to see their team already down.

However, that was as bad as it would get for the Blake Bengals, who have serious playoff aspirations after moving to 4-1 with tonight’s win. Blair began to shoot themselves in the foot with special teams errors. A muffed punt by a Blazer punt returner was recovered by Blake junior John Kimble at the Blazer 27 yard-line. Even though the Blair defense held, Evan Abramson booted a 35-yard field goal that cut the Blair lead to five.

Another special teams play helped do in Blair. Late in the first quarter, Blazer punter Joel Popkin had his punt blocked by Eric Knorr and recovered by Blake at the Blair 23 yard line, which led to a 10-yard touchdown run by Dominique Scott that put the Bengals in the lead for good. This was especially surprising to Blair head coach Jeffrey Seals, who said the team worked on special teams all week long in practice.

“We ran sets on how to not have a kick blocked, and then we have this happen," Seals said, obviously sounding frustrated at the loss.

Blake scored again prior to the half with a six-yard touchdown pass from Blake senior QB Greg Piskapas to Brandon Driver.

Blair’s offense, with the exception of the first touchdown, was very run-dominated. D’Andre Thomas carried the ball 21 times for 95 yards including sequences of three or four plays in a row. Michael Wright got the carries early before Thomas was used more often. Wright ran for 42 yards on 10 carries.
Williams went 3 for 8 for 85 yards and a touchdown; stats mostly gained on the first drive of the game. It appeared as if Coach Seals had settled on Williams as his starting quarterback, but in the third quarter he put in junior Aaron Simon, who was 1 for 3 in limited play, his one completion being a screen pass to D’Andre Thomas, who busted out for a 26 yard gain.

When asked if Williams had blown his shot at being the starter, Seals replied that "if Williams uses his head he can be the starter, and he was the last two games. He stopped using his head and struggled. We have two quarterbacks in case one of them messes up." Williams played all of last week’s loss to #2-ranked Damascus.

Seals took solace in the fact that the team kept fighting until the end of the game. “They never gave up," he said, but added that “we need to be smart. We made too many mistakes."

Another mistake was a punting error that led to the third touchdown for Blake. Popkin’s punt was so low that it hit an offensive lineman in front of him and bounced right back to him, where he was promptly tackled by Blake defenders. 90 seconds later, Blake went up 24-8 thanks to a 28-yard touchdown catch by Achille Hendje, a Bengal senior.

A scary moment, or rather, half-hour, came early in the second quarter. Blake defender Delante Carroll apparently hurt his neck and lay motionless on the grass for at least 25 minutes. After being attended to by the Bengals’ training staff, it was determined that this was a severe injury. Carroll was wheeled off on a stretcher after his head was immobilized. As of the time of this report, there was no further word on his condition.

Blake’s offense was well spread out, with starting QB Greg Piskapas going 5 for 9 for 103 yards and two touchdown passes. Achille Hendje had a nice night as a wideout, with two catches for 39 yards and a TD. Dominique Scott and Abdul Harris anchored the run, combining for 63 yards on 16 carries.

Statistically, Blake’s offense did not amaze, but they won thanks to Blair turnovers. Seals agreed. "We made too many mistakes, and it cost us," he said.

Blair’s next game is the homecoming game on Friday, October 8, 2004 against Wheaton. The Blazers won their homecoming game last year, 43-0, against Watkins Mill.

NOTES: There was a long moment of silence for Blake junior Alicia Betancourt, who was tragically killed last Friday in a car accident…In the second quarter, Blair had three penalties on five plays, which cost them two first downs on consecutive plays…An interesting stat to ponder is that in Blake, a school of roughly 1,800, 168 of them are on the marching band. That means nearly 1/10th of all students are in the marching band…Six Blazers carried the ball at some point in the game, including Joel Popkin, the punter, and both quarterbacks, including Simon, who showed nice speed on a 12 yard gain.

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  • fan on October 2, 2004
    you're kind of a dork in real life, bushnell, but i really like your sportswriting. good coverage of our football team.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on October 3, 2004
    Um...thanks? Naw, I'm glad you like my writing, even if you think I'm a dork.
  • run joel!!! on October 6, 2004
    you musta done that on purpose Popkin
  • u know who on October 27, 2004
    ok, first of all, Blair did NOT shut out Watkins Mill last year (I belive the score was 35-14, I could be wrong, but we did NOT shut them out)
    I was at the game and I never forget anything!!!
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