After 24 minutes of back-and-forth action, it took just several minutes after halftime to put Saturday’s game away.
With his Dover High School football team already leading, Shakim Futrell ran for a short touchdown to open the second half, the second of his three scoring scampers on the day, and the Dragons went on to beat Millbrook 42-22.
“This was a huge win for us,” said senior quarterback Kyle Bradshaw, whose team played its first game as a member of Section 9 following decades as a Section 1 squad. “This is the start of the season, and it showed us that we really can do some damage in Section 9, and we’re hoping to carry it through the rest of the season.”
With Dover ahead 30-22 at the break, Futrell had a 4-yard touchdown run on the Dragons’ first possession of the third quarter to give the hosts a 36-22 cushion just 2:28 into the period; the ensuing two-point run failed. More than the six points, though, coaches on both teams said the touchdown was a turning point for the Dragons (1-0) and Blazers (0-1), who traded touchdowns in the first half.
“It was huge. It changed the whole momentum of the game,” said Millbrook head coach Sean Keenan, whose Blazers were shut out after halftime. “All the credit in the world to Dover. They played hard. They played physical, and they’re going to do very well in Section 9 this year.”
Dover gave up a touchdown to Millbrook’s Henry Cardinal with 3:09 left in the first half — one of two scoring runs for Cardinal — only to take the halftime lead on a touchdown with 54 seconds remaining in the second.
Dragons coach Chris Lounsbury said the combination of Futrell’s quick touchdown and keeping the Blazers off the board early gave the home team the advantage.
“The touchdown was great, and it’s really important,” Lounsbury said, “but to come out, they got the ball and to come out, our defense — after talking at halftime about what we had to do — to be able to stop them, defensively, was huge. Not only did we just stop them, but it told our kids that, ‘Listen, if we do what the coaches have been teaching us all this time, we can stop them.’ It’s not about one-on-one battles. It’s about a team defense. Once we did that, we really shut them down. I think that set the tone even more than the touchdown.”
Those first possessions to open the second half seemed to boost the Dragons, while the Blazers found it hard to come back.
Whether it was the double-digit deficit or the 88-degree temperature toward the end of the game, Keenan said his team’s effort after halftime didn’t match the output following the respite.
“In the first half, I was very proud of them,” the Blazers’ coach said. “For all the things we did bad, and to only be down a touchdown and a two-point conversion, that was really good. But I don’t think we came out in the second half and played what we think is Millbrook football.
“We didn’t play physical. We got pushed around. I thought we were in better shape than we were, but every time we had a chance to make a play, we didn’t. And they did.”
As disappointed as Keenan was with the outcome, his Dover counterpart was equally satisfied with the Dragons’ effort.
“We had to execute, offensively, and we did. We executed really well,” Lounsbury said. “Our quarterback played a great game. He controlled the whole game himself — this is his third year, that’s what he should be doing — and he really stepped it up today, and I was very proud of him.
“I’m proud of the whole team, especially to keep everything going the way we practiced the last two weeks.”