Saturday, September 10, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Titans move ball, can’t finish drives

Leader staff writer

The Arkansas heat and Rocket hits put two Titan quarterbacks out of the game and wore down the rest of the team as Catholic pulled away from Jacksonville in the second half, winning Friday night’s competition at War Memorial, 31 to 6.

“We played good at times,” said Titans Coach Barry Higginbotham, “but we had too many signs of a young team. We’ve got to be able to go 48 minutes.”

The Titans looked strong early, recovering an onside kick, grabbing an interception and recovering a fumble that the officials, after a delay, called an incomplete pass.

The game started out in the Titans favor when they recovered their own onside kick on the opening kickoff, but the drive stalled.

Strong Safety Isaac Verser stopped a Rocket drive coming up with an interception on the Titans’ 15-yard line. The Titans’ offense, led by quarterback Rowdy Weathers, was able to move the ball to about mid-field before his first of many hard hits to the ribs slowed the drive and Jacksonville turned it over on downs.

The first quarter ended with neither team coming close to the end zone.

Early in the second quarter, the Rockets had to punt and the ball bounced out at the 10-yard line, pinning the Titans deep on their side of the field.

Weathers hit wide receiver HD Martin on a swing pass that Martin caught about a yard behind the scrimmage and burst 91-yards up along the sidelines for the first touchdown of the game. The point after failed, but at the 10:20 mark of the second quarter, Jacksonville had the lead.

The Rockets, behind the running and passing of quarterback Price Taylor, worked their way down the field despite solid tackling by Titans’’ Kevin Fulton. With a first down and goal to go on the 4-yard line, Rocket Luke Schildknecht bullied his way in to tie the game. The extra point was good and the Rockets took the lead and didn’t look back.

Catholic scored one more time before the half, one play after blocking a Titan punt.

Jacksonville had a chance to score right before the half when Weathers hit Martin on a 15-yard pass that Martin turned into a 70-yard gain before being horse-collared on the 10-yard line. Martin had to wait on the pass and that allowed Catholic defenders to catch him, but the horse collar drew a flag and the Titans were just five yards from a score, but went backwards in three plays to the 13-yard line.

The Titans tried a 23-yard field goal, but the kick, like the earlier PAT, missed to the left.

Early in the second half, Weathers was called for intentional grounding after a late hit to his rib put him down and his receiver wasn’t in the area of errant pass because he was held. The call didn’t set well with the sprinkling of Titan fans in the stadium.

Even with that setback, Weathers went up the middle on a keeper for 6 yards, and then hit Marcus Casey on a 14-yard pass play. The next pass, an attempt to Jonathan Hall, almost resulted in an interception, but Hall turned into a defensive back and ripped the ball out of the Rockets’ possession and the drive stalled.

Behind good defensive play of Fulton and Derrick Bragg, the Titans forced the Rockets to punt and Jacksonville took over again on their own 10-yard line. A hard 15-yard run by Jakyree Wynne followed by a high gear 55-yard dash by Shawn Ellis had the Titans at Catholic’s 25-yard line, looking to score.

But another late, hard hit to the ribs put Weathers down again and this time with leg cramps, too. He was helped off the field and control of the offense was given to Martin, who overthrew Dillon Birge in the middle of the field on fourth and 14.

Taking over on downs again, Catholic put together another drive and punched it in from the 1-yard line. After another successful PAT, Titans were down 21-6.

Jacksonville mounted a good drive early in the fourth quarter, which included passes from Martin to Myles Mason, Rodney Middleton and Wynne.

At the Catholic 24-yard line, Martin kept the ball on a hard zigzag run down to the 11 were the ball and his helmet were ripped from him and he went down, also with apparent leg cramps. He also had to be helped from the field.

Weathers, holding his side, tried to convince the coaches to let him back in, but they went with sophomore Cam Holston to finish the game.

“It was a non-conference game and too early in the season to take a chance putting Weathers back in,” Higginbotham said.

Catholic scored another touchdown after the Titans missed tackling Rockets’ running back Sammy Johnson on the scoring run.

A field goal in the final minutes set the final margin at 31-6.

After the game, the coach said the team needed to build more depth and execute better. “We’ve got to be ready to play in conference,” he said.