Pine Forest plans to decide Monday on a starting quarterback.
Both Danny Jackson and Xavier Saulsberry provided enough Thursday night to make it a challenging decision.
“Both of them have a lot of talent,” Pine Forest coach Jerry Pollard said after a 17-8 loss against Choctaw in the varsity portion of the teams’ Kickoff Classic event at Lon Wise Stadium. “Both do some different things. Both do some of the same things well. It will be a hard decision for us.”
No matter who is behind center, however, the Eagles figure to be a team looking to progress as players get more experience. Pollard’s team is filled with sophomores and juniors in starting roles. The youthful effort and shortcomings were displayed Thursday night.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” said Pollard, who begins his 26th year as Pine Forest head coach. “We played a lot of people early. The only thing I wasn’t pleased with was the intensity.
“We came out kinda flat. We don’t prepare for this as a regular game and maybe we should have done a better job preparing our guys. It’s more or less come out and see what you can do.”
Choctaw came out strong. The Indians forced and recovered a fumble on the game’s first play, but linebacker Patrick Keefe’s recovery was ruled a dead ball. Choctaw forced a possession exchange — there was no punting — three plays later.
The Indians had an eight play, 55-yard drive that was finished by quarterback Quint Gornto’s 1-yard run on a quick call with 8:48 left in the quarter.
Gornto produced the game’s biggest play when hooking up with receiver Cyrus Daniels, who made a diving catch for a 43-yard gain to the Pine Forest 20. Five plays later, John Hicks scored from an end-around play at the 4 with 1:30 left in the quarter.
“We did some things I feel we do well and we wanted to look at some things in the second quarter and we turned it over twice,” said Choctaw coach Greg Thomas, whose team will travel back this way next Friday for the season opener at Pace.
“That kind of hurt us a little bit, but I thought our kids did a great job staying in the game and playing a good half.”
Pine Forest hurt itself with penalties. The Eagles were flagged seven times, including five personal foul penalties.
“We’ve got to correct that,” Pollard said. “Guys have to make sure they do the right thing.”
One of those penalties was a roughing the passer call that nullified Welsey Philpot’s interception in the end zone and return to the Choctaw 30. Instead, the Indians got a 32-yard field from Carlos Leon to cap off their scoring.
Pine Forest had its best offensive series in the final five minutes. The big play was Saulsberry’s 25-yard flare pass, followed by Dejon Brown’s 20-yard scoring run with 3:45 left.
“That’s good for the boys,” Pollard said. “That lifts them a little bit. That will make practice a little bit easier for them on Monday. That shows them if they do some things right, good things will happen to them.”