Two Fridays ago, the NAPS squad traveled to Annapolis to take on Navy’s JV Football team. The weather conditions were much more favorable for the 2:30 kickoff than they were two weeks prior vs. Hargrave. Temps were in the upper 70’s, skies were blue, and the wind was a non-factor most of the day.
The game started out slowly. Actually, it was boring and not well executed by either offense. There may have been one first down by NAPS at the beginning of the game, but after that, there were no 1st downs in the remainder of the 1st quarter. Both offenses were out of sync on their blocks and reads, and the defenses punished them for it. There were few highlights, but a couple of lowlights. A muffed punt was recovered before any damage could be done. NAPS LB Brandon Killebrew recovered a fumble, but the offense gave it right back on a center/QB exchange misfire on the very next play.
The second quarter was a different story. The offenses settled and the plays opened up. And by opened up, I mean that the JV team started running sets I had not seen in action before. Specifically, the wishbone…yes, THAT wishbone. The FB was lined up short behind the QB and the slots were behind and to either side of the FB. And you know what? It worked. The JV scored the first TD of the game on a drive where the wishbone was used to spring slotback John Howell for a gain of 18 yards. The drive was capped by a jump ball pass to the corner of the end zone that was brought down by wide receiver Matt Shibata. Kicker Scott Blasinsky added the PAT for a 7-0 JV lead.
NAPS’s Darius Staten (5’5″ and listed as a FB) had a decent return on the ensuing kickoff. This set up a very quick drive for the answering TD. Highlights of the drive included SB Lyndon Moorehead hitting the corner fast for a 12 yard gain on a pitch, SB Brian Williams taking another pitch 15+ yards, and SB Walter Jones hauling in a 30 yard pass to set up 1st and goal at the 5. QB Trey Miller took the ball in for the score.
The next JV drive yielded a first down but soon stalled out. On the punt attempt, there was a very Pitt-esque fumble of the ball on the kick attempt. NAPS immediately made the JV pay, with WR Matt Aiken hauling in a 36 yd TD on a perfectly executed play-action pass. The PAT was pushed to the side and the score stayed at 13-7 NAPS. Not to be outdone, Slotback Bo Snelson of the JV took the kickoff back to the NAPS 35 yard line. After a short gain from fullback Delvin Diggs, Howell took the pitch 32 yards to the house. Blasinsky added the extra point for a 14-13 JV lead.
NAPS stalled on the drive and punted to the JV team with just over 2 minutes to go in the half. Time for the 2-minute drill. On the first play, wide receiver Hal Bowron caught a 22 yard pass. This was followed by gains of 9 yards by Howell and 10 yards by slotback John O’Boyle. Wide receiver Brandon Turner hauled in a 15 yard pass immediately followed by Howell gaining 18 yards on the ground. But the drive stalled with two stuffed runs and a batted down pass. The JV had to settle for a 27 yard field goal by Blasinsky to end the half and head to the locker room up 17-13.
The second half began with the JV getting the ball first. Again, the offense went to the wishbone set with mixed success. Diggs picked up 6 yards on one carry, but the drive stalled shortly after. Snelson made a great special teams play, diving into the end zone to knock the punt backwards where the coverage downed the ball at the 2 yard line. NAPS slotback Marcus Thomas took a pitch hard to the corner and gained a first down (and in the process took out a photographer on the sidelines to the point the photog’s shoes flew off), but soon their drive stalled as well.
The punt was excellent, driving JV slotback Trey Reed backwards. But after catching the punt over his shoulder, Reed avoided three tacklers and ripped off a 25 yard return. Diggs soon went to work; with the outside softened up by some excellent slotback runs, the sophomore fullback had five consecutive carries for 29 yards. A pitch to Howell gained 12 yards down to the 5 yard line, and from there quarterback Tyler Lynch followed his blockers for the TD and a 24-13 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, NAPS’s Staten returned the ball to the 50, but it was called back for a hold. Fullback Parker Jackson gained 14 yards on consecutive carries, but the ball was soon punted away by NAPS punter Brynmor Hughes, who boomed it to the 14 yard line. Full of confidence, the JV offense retook the field…and proceeded to fumble the ball twice on a three and out. The first was on the center/QB exchange and the second was a fumble by the QB and he was dropping back to pass on a 3rd and long.
NAPS had more success on this drive. Fullback Rob Lombardo caught a pass in the flats for a 7 yard gain and Thomas picked up a first down with a 6 yard gainer on a pitch as the 3rd quarter came to an end. The first play of the 4th quarter was Lombardo using one hand to pull in another pass, this one for 10 yards. The passing continued to Aiken for 9 yards. A few plays later Miller kept the ball for an 8 yard gain to set up 1st and goal. The next play, the QB kept the ball again for a TD, but it was called back for holding along the line. After picking up a few more yards, NAPS got the 6 points back with a 7 yard pass on a slant route to Aiken. The ball was perfectly placed by Miller where only Aiken had a chance to go to the ground and haul it in. NAPS successfully converted the 2-point attempt with a pass to Aiken in the back corner of the end zone as Miller was sent scrambling by the JV defense. So with under 11 minutes to go in the 4th, it was 24-21 in favor of the home team.
Things didn’t improve for the JV squad. The center/QB exchange was again bad, but this time NAPS pounced on the ball. Suddenly, the visitors found themselves down a FG and sitting on the opponent’s 33 yard line. After failing to gain any yards on the first 2 downs, NAPS wide receiver Casey Bolena grabbed a 12 yard pass. Lombardo and Miller had carries to push the ball down to a 1st and goal at the JV 7 yard line. The QB kept the ball 3 times and had gains of 2 yards each time. On 4th and goal from the 1 yard line, the NAPS coach left the offense on the field. He chose poorly. The JV defense stepped up and stuffed the QB keeper. But again the offense wasn’t able to pick up a first down and the ball punted from the back line of the end zone to the JV 46 yard line.
With 3:43 to go in the game, the score was still 24-21. NAPS had the ball on the JV side of the 50. Things were looking up for the out of towners. But on the first play, Miller floated a duck of a pass and JV cornerback David Sperry picked it off. The NAPS threat seemed to be eliminated as the center/QB exchange went smoothly on the first play for the JV. But then there’s that whole pesky QB/FB exchange. You can guess what happened next. Fumble, recovered by NAPS. 1st down NAPS on the JV 21 with 3 minutes to play and 3 points between the two.
The game nearly ended on a fumbled pitch by NAPS’s Thomas, but somehow the ball went forward off his body and bounced up to chest level. The end result was one of the wackier 11 yard gains you’ll see in football this year. 99 times out of 100 that ball goes backwards for a big loss or gets picked up by the other team. Now with a first down and less than 10 yards to go for the upset victory, the JV put their backs against the wall and pushed back. On a 2nd a long run, the defense forced the runner out of bounds at the 5, but on a questionable late hit flag gave NAPS the 1st and goal at the 2 yard line. First and second downs resulted in gains of inches if anything. On 3rd and goal, the defensive line got huge penetration up the middle and took the QB down for a loss before anyone on the NAPS team knew what hit them. This time on 4th and goal from the 3 yard line, NAPS brought their kicker on. Hughes nailed the 20 yard attempt as time expired, tying the game at 24-24 and sending the teams to overtime.
NAPS got the ball first in OT and the stout JV defense once again responded to the call. Other than a 6 yard reception by Aiken, there was not much doing for the offense. The NAPS coaches called on Hughes another time, this time to hit a 36 yarder. He did and the JV found themselves up for the first time all game, 27-24.
JV decided that they wanted to put themselves in a hole before attempting to win the game. First, a false start penalty put them at 1st and 15 from the 30. The center/QB exchange came back to bite them yet again on the next snap. Luckily, the JV recovered the fumble. Unluckily they faced 2nd and 16. But the JV team also had Diggs on the field at fullback. On 2nd down, he ripped off a 11 yard gain and he picked up the 1st down with just a 5 yard run on 3rd and 5. Again the center/QB exchange went awry (this was a problem, in case you hadn’t gotten that by now), but the JV actually fell forward a yard this time. Diggs got a combined 12 yards on 2nd and 3rd downs to set up 1st and goal from the 2 yard line. Two QB keepers later Lynch found the endzone and the JV had fought off the team from Newport 30-27.