Matt Middleton talked all preseason about his excitement over the Cedar Creek defense.
On Friday night at Cougar Stadium, the Creek defense lived up to those expectations. However, the lack of big-play ability cost the Cougars in a 7-6 loss to St. Frederick.
“The biggest thing for us is they gave us exactly what we thought we would get,” said Middleton. “They were just more physical than us up front. We had first game issues. Snaps on the ground. We had some guys playing both ways that were cramping. It was a tough go. Defensively, I thought we played great and had chance to win, but we just didn’t get it done.
“I thought we really struggled up front (on the offensive line). I thought that is why we had some issues. They had a lot of slanted (defensive) fronts that we struggled to handle and to get vertical movement on. I think that was the story of the game.”
St. Frederick (2-0) took the opening kickoff and marched down the field. The Warriors took a 7-0 lead on an 8-yard naked boot option pass play that resulted in their first – and only – TD of the game. The extra point was good … which ultimately proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
“On that first drive they got loose on a couple of quick screens,” said Middleton. “They had a fourth and 14 inside the red zone that they converted. They got the score. The defense buckled down after that. We got pressure on their quarterback. I think defensively we have a chance to be really, really good. But we have to be able to put some points on the board offensively.”
Trailing 7-0 at the half, Cedar Creek took the opening kickoff in the second half and did its best version of the ground and pound. The Cougars made a concerted effort to enforce their will up front and capped the drive with a 4-yard TD run off the right side by AJ Thomas with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Creek elected to go for two following the TD, but Thomas was gang tackled short of the goal line as he tried to bounce the handoff outside.
Neither team would drive inside its opponents redzone the rest of the way. Cedar Creek’s final two offensive possessions started deep inside its own territory in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, and the Cougars weren’t able to move the football.
Quarterback Caden Middleton tried to hit a couple of deep balls down the Creek sideline, including one that was intercepted with just over two minutes to play and the Cougars without any time outs remaining. The Warriors took a knee three straight times to run out the clock.
“We tried to force a couple of throws trying to stretch the field late,” said Middleton. “They weren’t giving us options down the field. They were pressuring us pretty good. We have to find some playmakers. I’m still looking for that person. We are going to get there, and we are going to get better.
“When you can’t get a chunk play here or there, and you have to go 5 yards, 5 yards, 5 yards … it’s too hard to sustain that. We have to have some big play abilities to give us a shorter field and a better chance to score quickly.”
Caden Middleton completed 19 of 30 passes for 133 yards and one score with most of the damage coming on swing passes to the outside. Ladd Thompson caught seven passes for 52 yards while Bryce Rushing added 5 receptions for 34 yards.
Jed Worthey led the Cougars ground attack, rushing 20 times for 89 yards.
Cedar Creek held St. Frederick to 186 yards of total offense while the Cougars recorded 219 total yards.
Middleton’s message to his Cougars postgame was simple.
“It’s game one,” said Middleton. “I love them. This too shall pass. The sun will come up. We will get to work and get these things fixed. We are going to come out next Friday, and I am looking forward to playing better.”
Carson Riley led the Creek defense with 14 tackles, while AJ Thomas added 13 tackles, including two tackles for loss. Lawson Lillo had eight tackles and one sack while Rushing added eight tackles, including two tackles for loss.
Creek was penalized just three times for 31 yards while St. Frederick had eight penalties for 85 yards.
Cedar Creek travels to Delhi Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoffs.
Photo: Darrell James (dgjames.photoshelter.com)
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