NEWARK – In game full of mistakes, it comes down to who capitalizes on those mistakes.
Newark was up to the task, recovering a pair of fumbles deep in Mount Pleasant territory en route to a 17-3 home win, the Yellowjackets’ first of the season, Friday night.
Each team ended with 11 penalties, most of which hampered offensive drives and big returns on special teams.
“As sloppy as it looked, it was definitely an improvement on last week,” Newark head coach Barry Zehnder said, referring to his team’s 27-7 loss to St. Mark’s. “We made a lot of mental mistakes last week, and this week they were more physical. We challenged the kids to play with emotion and energy, and they did.”
One player immune to the penalty bug was Newark running back Dequan Woods, who wrestled his way past the initial point of contact all night, refusing to go down. He finished with 83 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown.
“(Coach) Zehnder is always talking about the next four seconds, so if you give it your all for those four seconds, everything should work,” Woods said. “We’ve been working with the O-line to get them better because most of our starters last year were seniors. We’re trying to build a brotherhood there because it all starts with them.”
Both teams put points on the board early with the help of their defenses. Late in the first quarter, Carter Felizzi picked off Andrew DelPercio at the Newark 28-yard line, leading to Spencer Read’s 28-yard field goal.
The Yellowjackets (1-1) answered right back with their own 28-yarder from Zach Dakin — during the only sustained offensive drive for either team — and then Newark recovered a fumble at the Mount Pleasant 19. Four plays later, Woods dragged a few defenders with him into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.
The score remained 10-3 through a penalty-riddled third quarter. During one drive, four straight plays resulted in yellow flags, comically moving the line of scrimmage back and forth. Mount Pleasant fell as far back as 2nd and 42 before finally being forced to punt on 4th and 9.
“Our kids aren’t coached to play that way, and when kids choose to do what they want to do instead of the way they’re coached, that’s what they get,” Green Knights head coach Randy Holmes said. “We had a couple lousy days of practice and we warned them, this could happen.”
The Yellowjackets got their second touchdown toward the end of the third. With the Green Knights (1-1) pinned deep in their own territory, Brian Sutton snatched quarterback Sean Carroll’s fumble near the goal line and dove into the end zone.
While Newark is happy about a better outcome in Week 2, Zehnder’s simple message remained the same.
“Each week is always about going 1-0,” he said. “Even though they may want to enjoy this, I told them that our focus Monday through Thursday is about going 1-0 on Friday.”