WAYNESBORO — It’s tough enough playing your first football game of the season after less than two weeks of practice.
Throw a hard-nosed opponent into the equation, and it makes things that much tougher.
Fishburne Military was in that situation Friday as it overcame a determined opponent in Grace Christian, and some self-inflicted problems, to post a 14-7 victory over the Warriors at Anderson Field.
The Caissons (1-0) have only been together nine days and it showed Friday. They moved the ball well but could not score an offensive touchdown. Grace Christian (0-2) had a little something to do with that, too, as they stopped Fishburne on down three times inside the 20.
Having eight penalties for 90 yards, unofficially, including four 15-yard personal foul flags, didn’t help the Caissons either. But the defense came through with a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 15-yard interception return by Tyler Wease with 9:40 left in the game.
“The nature of a military school is that you are pulling kids in from all of the country and getting them settled, and because of that, we’ve only been out there together for nine days,” Caissons coach Chip Hill said. “A lot of the penalties and mistakes is reflective of the kids just not being out there to do the work.
“It was frustrating because we moved the ball really well,” Hill added. “We had opportunities, but we took points off the board. We just shot ourselves in the foot a lot.”
When Fishburne moved the ball, Tyree Scott was the method. The senior fullback finished with 115 yards on 20 carries, with 76 of those yards coming in the second half.
But it was the defense that got Fishburne on the board first late in the first quarter.
Set up by an interception by Levi Harris, the Warriors were driving inside Fishburne territory. The Caissons’ Bo Branham leveled Warriors quarterback Austin Mayo at the Fishburne 30 as he was fading back to pass, forcing a fumble that Jacob Randle scooped up and returned 70 yards for the TD. The point-after was blocked, leaving the score at 6-0.
The Warriors came right back to take the lead off a 70-yard scoring that was made possible by a late-hit penalty on Fishburne and a 45-yard pass from Mayo to Michael Wade-Jones that gave Grace a first-and-goal at the Caissons’ 8. Two plays later, tailback Thomas Musselman, who led Grace with 38 yards rushing, took it in from five yards out, and the PAT by Eli Marcellus put the Warriors in the lead 7-6, which is the way the first half ended.
It was a defensive battle throughout the second half. Grace had trouble moving the ball, and while its defense bent a whole lot, it refused to break. The outmanned Warriors, who have 22 players on their roster stopped the Caissons on downs three times, once in the shadow of their goalposts at the 3-yard line.
“We played well on defense,” Grace coach Rick Yeomans said. “We just couldn’t get the running game going and we couldn’t find balance on offense.”
The Warriors took over at their 18 after the third defensive stand. However, Mayo, who was under constant pressure the whole game, was picked off by Wease, who returned it 15 yards for the score, and quarterback Dylan Bell’s conversion run made it 14-7.
GRACE CHRISTIAN 0 7 0 0 — 7
FISHBURNE 6 0 0 8 — 14
F – Randle 70-yard fumble return (kick blocked)
G – Musselman 5-yard run (Marcellus kick)
F – Wease 15-yards interception return (Bell run)