Indians unable to overcome early deficit in loss to Eagles

Published 10:42 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

A pass intended for Southampton wide receiver Rakuan Briggs flies just beyond his reach in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game against Greensville. Down 20 points at halftime, the Indians nearly mounted a comeback in the second stanza. -- Murray Thompson | Tidewater News

A pass intended for Southampton wide receiver Rakuan Briggs flies just beyond his reach in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game against Greensville. Down 20 points at halftime, the Indians nearly mounted a comeback in the second stanza. — Murray Thompson | Tidewater News

The Southampton Indians dropped their third-consecutive game on Friday night, as the Greensville Eagles held off a furious comeback attempt to come away victorious, 32-22. The Indians trailed by as much as 20 points in the first half, but cut the deficit to four late in the third quarter.

“Greensville played a good game. We spotted them 20 point and had to fight back, and then we just didn’t execute late in the second half,” Southampton head coach Willie Gillus said. “We still had a chance to win the game, but trying to overcome that big lead was tough for us.”

Greensville’s defense was swarming from the beginning, forcing Southampton to go three-and-out on its first drive of the game. On the punt attempt, the Indians snapped the ball through the end zone to surrender two points.

After the free kick, Greensville set up shop at the Southampton 48-yard-line. Dual-threat quarterback Shyheim Anderson quickly moved the Eagles to the redzone with runs of eight and 15 yards, but the Indians’ defense stiffened.

On 4th-and-15, however, Anderson connected on a wheel route to running back Diamond Turner for a 29-yard-completion. The senior then snuck it in over the left guard from one yard out to give the Eagles an 8-0 lead just minutes into the contest.

“We knew it was a long way to go, and we just had a couple mistakes,” Gillus said. “[We] needed to correct them.”

Despite the fact that the Eagles were clearly stacking the box in the opening series, Gillus elected to keep the ball on the ground. Tyrick Mason broke off runs of seven and 15 yards to move the Indians across midfield, but the drive stalled when quarterback Andrew “A.J.” Blunt was sacked in the backfield for a 10-yard loss.

“They kind of stuffed us at the line of scrimmage,” Gillus said. “We had to make some adjustments to get the ball moving.”

A kick catch interference penalty on the punt gave the Eagles excellent field position to start their ensuing drive, and they took advantage quickly.

Anderson nearly hit a streaking La’Floyd Cain on first down, as the lanky receiver blew past the corner and safety, and instead on the very next play took a quarterback keeper 58 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game.

“We knew coming into the game how elusive he was and that he was a tough football player,” Gillus said of Anderson.

Greensville attempted to pour it on early, recovering an onside kick after the score. The drive went nowhere, though, as four-consecutive penalties, including holding and illegal motion, put Greensville in a 3rd-and-33 situation.

On the first play of the second quarter, Southampton cornerback Rakuan Briggs picked off the fourth-down pass attempt and returned it for 61 yards for a touchdown to light a spark in the Indians.

“We had energy at that time,” Gillus said. “It was an excellent interception.”

Southampton forced a quick three-and-out, and took over with a chance to tie the game. However, that all changed in two plays, when Blunt threw an interception and Anderson hooked up with Cain for a 52-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 20-6.

“We loaded the box up and [the receiver] just made a play on the ball,” Gillus said. “There were just too many mistakes at crucial times.”

Greensville tacked on another score to go up 26-6 just before halftime, successfully melting off the final six minutes of the half in the process.

With Anderson nursing a hand injury, the Eagles turned to second-string quarterback Khari Carr on the first drive of the second half. Greensville was unable move the ball without its starter, and gave it right back to Southampton.

On the third play of the Indians’ ensuing drive, an all-out blitz left Mason wide open for an 81-yard touchdown pass from Blunt to trim the lead to 12.

Southampton nearly turned the ball over at midfield when Mason muffed a punt return. Greensville recovered, but an illegal procedure penalty kept hope alive for the Indians, who watched the subsequent snap fly out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Anderson continued to watch from the bench on Greensville’s next drive, and the Eagles fumbled on the first play. Southampton recovered, and Blunt hit Kavonta Johnson for a 20-yard strike to the 4-yard-line. Running back Harrison Ehrenzeller punched it across the goal line two plays later to cut the lead to 26-22.

“We’re proud of them for fighting back,” Gillus said. “Up front, we’re real young and we made mistakes in protection. But guys kept fighting.”

All hopes of a comeback ended, though, when Carr hit a streaking Cain for a 48-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.

“Our defense played tough,” Gillus said. “We just need to execute better.”

Southampton falls to 1-4, 0-3 in TriRivers District play, but will look to snap the losing skid when Surry comes calling for Homecoming. The Cougars lost to Windsor, 14-6, on Friday night.

“They’re a tough bunch, and we’ve had problems with them for the last three years,” Gillus said. “Hopefully our guys have a lot more energy going into the game. Playing at home is a place where we should have a lot of energy, and we just need to battle on.

“We’re still in real good shape in the district, so we have to let the chips fall where they may. I don’t think there’s a team out there that we can’t compete with.”