by T. Scott Boatright
In a gridiron chess match between Cedar Creek and Delhi Friday night at Cougar Stadium, the knight and its jumping ability probably became the most key playing piece..
As momentum moved back and forth between teams as often as yellow flags rained on the field, in-game and halftime adjustments made by Cedar Creek’s coaching staff helped push the Cougars to their first win of the season with a 22-12 win over the Bears.
And that was something Cedar Creek coach William Parkerson knew his Cougars needed.
“It’s nice to finally get a win,” Parkerson said. “We tried our best not to put it away, but we found a way to win. These kids kept fighting and clawing and came out here and got the win.”
It was the Bears who made the opening gambit in this chess match, jumping out to a 6-0 lead at the 6:56 mark of the opening stanza as quarterback Kenyon Cross found a wide-open receiver streaking right down the middle for a 44-yard scoring strike to put Delhi on top by six points after the two-point conversion pass failed.
But the Cougars quickly adjusted to slow down Delhi’s aerial assault from there.
“We just had a bust in coverage,” Parkerson said of the Bears’ opening score. “We got that fixed and I’m just glad we were able to fix that and get things rolling.”
Cedar Creek got its first scoring opportunity late in the first quarter with a first-and-goal situation at the Delhi 8-yard line.
But the Bears made the stop on fourth down from their own 1 to squash the initial red-zone opportunity for the Cougars.
A 65-yard completion by Ross with time winding down in the second quarter made it look like Delhi might take a double-digit lead at intermission, but the Cougars forced a turnover on downs to hold the Bears to a 6-0 halftime advantage.
“The whole defense played great,” Parkerson said. “James Myers had two interceptions, Ladd (Thompson) batted some balls down and we had a bunch of sacks. Outside of the first series, I thought our defense played phenomenal tonight.”
Cedar Creek forced another turnover on downs to open the third quarter and then methodically marched downfield after adjusting its run game toward the outside before going to the air with Thompson hitting Lawson Lillo right over the middle on a 11-yard scoring strike to tie things up with 7:14 remaining in the stanza.
On the point(s) after touchdown, Cedar Creek turned back to its chessboard knight, shocking the Bears as Thompson launched a Tim Tebow-like jump pass to Hayden Durrett to put the Cougars on top 8-6.
Soon it was Noah Durrett’s turn to jump into action as he picked off a pass at the Delhi 21 and returned it for a pick six that pushed the Cedar Creek lead to 16-6 with 5:35 remaining in the third quarter after adding another two-point conversion.
Meyers’ two interceptions after that helped shut down Delhi drives, and trying to run out the clock but facing a third-and-15, Cedar Creek checkmated the Bears when Lillo burst through the line right up the middle and raced 64 yards to paydirt to put the Cougars up 22-6 with 1:23 remaining after the two-point conversion attempted failed.
It looked like Delhi would quickly cut into that lead with time running out with an 82-yard touchdown pass, but that play was called back on a penalty call against the Bears.
Delhi did manage to score as time ran out on a 24-yard touchdown run by Day’Shaun Moss, who earned the game’s 22nd penalty after turning around and backing into the end zone while taunting the Cougars.
Cedar Creek was flagged 11 times for 93, with Parkerson knowing that’s something his team needs to work on.
“We’re young and it shows,” Parkerson said of the plethora of penalties. “There were times we had five freshmen out there on offense, so you can tell at times we’ve got some puppies playing.”
Lillo was a force on both sides of the ball, rushing for 102 yards on eight carries, adding his scoring reception, and leading the Cougars with 15 tackles.
“I don’t have words to describe Lawson,” Parkerson said. “He’s just a football player. If you put him at offensive guard, he’d be a heckuva offensive guard. If you put him anywhere, he’s going to make plays.”
Parkerson was proud of his defense and especially sophomore defensive ends Blake Robinson and Alex Simpson, who both pressured Delhi quarterbacks all game long and made six tackles each while combining for three assisted sacks.
“Two puppies that are finally growing up,” Parkerson said of his sophomore starting defensive ends. “That was good to see, because we’re going to need to see them play like seniors and not sophomores if we want to be pretty good.”
In the end, Parkerson was simply glad to get a win his team can build on.
“I think it was more important to the seniors, to keep them focused,” Parkerson said. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked so it was more important to get those guys a W and let them relax a little bit. I’ve been telling them that we’ve just got to learn to win.
“Once you get that first one, the next one becomes easier. Now that they’ve got that off their back, they can relax and just play football.”