Dresden detours off winning path in 2A title game
Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 12:02 pm
COOKEVILLE — Dresden’s first loss in just over a month came to Tucker Stadium via “special” delivery.
Three breakdowns in the punting game proved fatal to the Lions’ state championship chances in a 34-0 loss to Friendship Christian School in the TSSAA BlueCross Bowl Class 2A state championship game here Saturday afternoon.
It marked Dresden’s first loss since an Oct. 27 setback to Huntingdon in the final regular season game and brought a disappointing end to the most successful football season in school history.
The 2011 Lions won a school-record 12 games and advanced to the state championship game for the first time, winning every game it played on the road until Saturday’s trip.
“Maybe these guys have set a precedent and we can go on,” said Dresden head coach Scott Hewett, who closed the curtain on his coaching career at the state finals. “Its a big difference when you go out there expecting to win, and these guys expect to win now. They’ve gone from 0-10 when these seniors were freshmen to the state championship game. They turned it around, and they’ve started something we hope can keep going.”
Neither team got much going as defenses ruled throughout the day.
Both teams came into the game with solid defensive reputations and lived up to the hype. Dresden limited Friendship Christian to just 170 total yards on 50 plays and picked off a pass.
FCS, meanwhile, slowed Lion double-threat quarterback Gatlin Hatchel with a strong line that won the battle of the trenches all day in limiting Dresden to just 216 total yards and forcing three turnovers.
Commanders’ head coach John McNeal credited Dresden for being well-prepared but also explained that one reason his offense had so little production was because his defense was so dominant all day.
“Offensively, we were frustrated in trying to find something we could do,” McNeal said. “Dresden did a good job of crowding the box. We were able to squirt loose a couple of times, but they did a great job.
“But once we got the lead, coaches made suggestions, but I was kind of hesitant to do anything because of the way our defense was playing. With a 13-0 lead, the last thing we wanted to do was put ourselves in a hole and make it hard on our defense. Once we got the lead, I made the decision that we weren’t going to lose it on offense.”
Dekolas Reeves, the game’s offensive most valuable player, had 98 yards on 24 carries, his longest run going for 21 yards.
Hewett, too, was impressed by his opponent’s defensive play while also pointing out that looking at a long field all day was not much help.
“We never did have good field position,” Hewett said. “That was the difference. It limits what you want to do. Our pass protection broke down, and that hasn’t been the case all year. They just got after us.”
Hatchel came into the game with 1,585 yards passing and 1,351 yards rushing but had virtually no time to do anything against the Commanders.
While Hatchel did break off the game’s longest play, a 33-yard run, he was held to 51 yards rushing and completed 13-of-23 passes for 108 yards with two interceptions.
And, field position was critical, Dresden starting its 14 drives at its own 24-yard-line, on average, while Friendship’s average starting spot was the Lions’ 46.
Then again, a team that starts possessions at its opponent’s 18-, nine- and four-yard lines is going to be in pretty good shape.
It turns out that FCS was in great shape.
Friendship Christian was able to start so close to Dresden’s goal line three times because of mistakes in the Lions’ punting game. The Commanders were quick to take advantage, too, scoring on the first play from scrimmage each time.
The first came on Dresden’s third punt of the first quarter.
After seeing two Colin Kanehl punts caught in — and then knocked down by — a gusting wind, Hewett chose to go with a quick kick on fourth-and-six from his team’s own 14, hoping to get a low shot that would skip down the stadium’s artificial surface.
Instead, Hatchel’s kick was low and off a FCS player, going just four yards past the line of scrimmage.
Tallon Mehlhoff, who shares quarterback duties with Brennan Swindoll, kept and covered the 18 yards on the following play to give the Commanders a 13-0 lead.
It stayed that way for just over two quarters, until another special teams’ mistake practically handed the Commanders another touchdown.
Kanehl kept on a fourth-and-23 from his own 19, the rugby-style kicker first going right as if to kick and then cutting back left in hopes of finding a clear field.
He was stopped four a 10-yard loss, however, and then short yardage specialist Kyle Wood took the direct snap and bulled up the middle for a touchdown on the following play for a 20-0 FCS lead at 9:16 of the fourth quarter.
That play opened the door for three Friendship Christian scores in the span of seven minutes.
With Dresden backed up to its own 11, Kanehl’s next punt attempt was shanked and fell seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, and Wood cashed in again in the exact same fashion with a four yard TD run at 7:41.
The Commanders actually had to work for their final score, going 51 yards in eight plays with Austin Taylor running in from nine yards out at 2:16.
That marked the second-longest scoring drive of the day, the first coming in the opening quarter when FCS grabbed a 7-0 lead as Reeves’ 12-yard run capped a 57-yard, eight-play march.
Dresden had a couple of serious scoring chances in the second quarter snuffed out by interceptions.
The Lions reached the FCS 26-yard line only to see Hatchel’s pass to Tyler McPeak tipped up and then picked off by Dalton Patterson. Dresden then reached the Friendship 31 on its following possession but came up short when Steven Hollis jumped in front of a Davis Moran pass.
Dresden’s Eric VanDyke cut off a Commander drive, jumping a rout on a Swindoll pass the Lions’ 22-yard-line in the third period. Published in The WCP 12.6.11