Offense Struggles as Southern Football Team Drops 14-0 Contest in Season Opener

By DAVID BIGGY | Sep 12, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

One particular statistic summed up the first half for the Southern Regional football team in its opener against Jackson Memorial on Sept. 7. After 24 minutes of play, the Rams had totaled 26 yards of offense while racking up 20 yards in penalties.

And while the Southern offense moved the ball better in the second half, head coach Chuck Donohue’s crew didn’t move it well inside the red zone, and as a result ended up falling to Jackson Memorial, 14-0, in front of a packed home crowd.

“We looked like an inexperienced football team tonight,” Donohue said after addressing his squad near midfield following the final whistle. “Jackson’s a good, physical team and they were faster than I thought they were. I thought we could get the ball to the outside on them, but we made mistakes on blocks to the outside and things just didn’t work the way we wanted them to.”

The Rams didn’t cross midfield during the first half as they struggled to keep pressure away from senior quarterback Carmen Deo and the running attack was ineffective in trying to run the ball to the inside. Even when Deo rolled out to either side, the size of Jackson’s ends posed a problem.

“Our biggest problem is our lines – we have nobody back from last year on either side of the ball. Not one, nobody,” Donohue said. “So, going out for their first game, they made a lot of mistakes. Then we’re substituting guys, and they’re making mistakes. And that’s what happens. You can’t move the football. We had no timing, no protection, no running game, no nothing.

“Carmen wasn’t doing anything wrong. We just weren’t protecting him and he couldn’t see down the field. We couldn’t get outside their ends.”

Meanwhile, the Jaguars scored on their first possession with a 40-yard touchdown run by Leo Shimonovich, followed by a Justin Burkert point-after kick with 8:52 left in the first quarter. The score remained 7-0 until later into the second quarter. Unfortunately, that’s when Southern’s offensive woes became a catalyst for another Jackson scoring drive.

After the Rams’ Dupreme Holland blocked a field goal attempt and Zach Hem returned the ball to their own 40-yard line, Southern moved the ball 9 yards on three running plays to seniors Rob Gunnell and Pat Scully. With just over 2½ minutes on the clock and staring at a fourth-and-1, Donohue called a timeout.

“We’re fourth and a foot, and originally I was going to punt the ball,” he said. “But then we talked more about it, and I figured we only needed a foot. So, why not go for it? Get the first down and go into the locker room down 7-0. Obviously, that was a bad move on my part and the decision not to punt didn’t help matters.”

On the ensuing run to the middle, Scully was stopped short of the first-down marker, and the Jaguars took over on downs with 2:19 left. After moving the ball down to the Rams’ 14-yard line, Shimonovich broke through the line, blazed through the secondary and cruised into the end zone almost untouched. With 45 seconds left, Burkert delivered the PAT to make it 14-0.

In the second half, junior Cole Robinson was inserted as the quarterback, providing an extra 4 inches of visibility. Robinson ended up completing five of 11 passes for 45 yards, while the running game picked up a little more steam as the inexperienced line settled in. Still, scoring points eluded Southern.

The best chance the Rams had at closing the gap occurred in the fourth quarter. Starting at their own 27 with 9:20 left, Robinson opened up with a 21-yard strike to senior Matt Caporrino, then two plays later hit Caporrino again for a 10-yard gain. A personal foul on Jackson put the ball at Memorial’s 34-yard line. A 14-yard pass play to senior Joe Guglielmo on third-and-8 kept the drive going.

However, once the Rams gained the 10-yard line, everything fizzled. On first-and-goal, Gunnell lost a yard on a run, before Robinson fired three consecutive incomplete passes and Southern turned over the ball with 2:35 left. Defensively, Hem made seven tackles, while Liam Anderson, Tom Barnett and Matt Flores each managed four. Sebastian Cervetto and Colby Saxton each had sacks.

“We’re going to be all right,” Donohue said. “Our kids will watch the film this week, learn from their mistakes and get better for next week. We don’t play until Saturday, so that gives us an extra day to prepare, which can only help us. But each week, we’re going to get a little better. These kids just need to gain some more experience and clean things up on offense.”

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