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Missed tackles that led to long runs proved the Achilles heel for Warhill's football team during Thursday's season opener at Churchland.
Despite playing sound defense for most of the night, two big plays allowed Churchland to eke out a 24-20 win over the Lions.
After a quick Warhill three-and-out on the Lions' opening drive, Churchland moved the ball methodically down the field before being stopped on third down from the 8-yard line.
The Truckers lined up for a field goal attempt, but holder Jaylin Dancy bobbled the snap and scrambled to his left. Running free in the end zone on the broken play was Danny Holley, who hauled in a desperation pass from Dancy for the game's opening score.
A solid kickoff return from Trevon Loftin to the Churchland 44-yard line set the Lions up for their first scoring drive of the contest.
Warhill running back Collin Bright, who finished the game with 116 yards and 2 TDs on 21 carries, did most of the heavy lifting on the opening touchdown drive.
Bright was called upon to run the ball five consecutive times on the drive, with his final run seeing him break down the sideline for a 24-yard touchdown. An extra point by Fletcher Whalen put the Lions up 7-6.
On Churchland's next drive, quarterback Corey Gause Jr. fumbled a low snap that was jumped on by Warhill, giving the Lions great field position.
Taking advantage of the turnover deep in Trucker territory, Warhill called five consecutive run plays before airing it out.
On 4th-and-long from the 18-yard line, Warhill ran a play action fake that Churchland defenders bit on hard, allowing Warhill quarterback Ryan Creecy to find Noah Holmes running free in the end zone for a touchdown.
With time winding down in the first half, Churchland took advantage of poor tackling by Warhill. Gause flipped a shot pass to wide receiver Troy Mitchell, who broke a couple tackles and streaked down the sideline for a 67-yard touchdown.
Warhill attempted to string together a quick response within the final two minutes of the first half. Creecy helped navigate the Lions into the red zone, but an attempted pass in the end zone was picked off, effectively ending the half.
The Lions stuck to their gameplan in the second half, leaning heavily on a trio of running backs to move the chains.
The plan worked on their opening drive of the second half as the Lions capitalized on a 13-play, 70-yard drive, all coming off runs. The drive was capped off by a 6-yard scamper by Bright.
On the ensuing kickoff, Churchland was able to weave through the Warhill special teams unit and take the ball all the way down to the Warhill 14-yard line. Three plays later, Danny Holley punched his way across the goal line to pull the Truckers within two points.
The game-breaking play came with 5:07 left in the fourth quarter as Gause flipped a screen pass to running back Jamil Edwards, who broke multiple tackles before cutting across the field for a stellar 73-yard touchdown to put the Truckers on top 24-20.
Warhill (0-1) failed a fourth-down conversion with roughly three minutes left to play in the game, which set up Churchland (1-0) to run out the clock and secure the win.
Despite the loss, Warhill Coach Thad Wheeler was proud of his team's performance.
"We took the football and drove it down the field. That's what we want to be, three or four yards at a time," Wheeler said. "I'm pleased with the game. I wouldn't trade this group for anybody."
Warhill will continue its season on the road Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at Lafayette.
Warhill: 7 7 6 0 — 20
Churchland: 6 6 6 6 — 24
C — Holley 8 pass from Dancy (kick blocked) 6-0
W — Bright 26 run (Whalen kick) 7-6
W — Holmes 18 pass from Creecy (Whalen kick) 14-6
C — Mitchell 67 pass from Gause (pass failed) 14-12
W — Bright 8 run (kick failed) 20-12
C — Holley 3 run (pass failed) 20-18
C — Edwards 73 pass from Gause (pass failed) 24-18
First Downs: 15; 9
Rushes-yards: 50-252; 17-49
Passing yards: 37; 273
Comp-att-int: 3-5-1; 10-14-1
Penalties-yards: 4-30; 8-51
Fumbles-lost: 2-1; 1-1
Collin Bright 21 car, 116 yards, 2 TD
Trevon Loftin 10 car, 76 yards
Ryan Creecy 3-5, 37 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Bryce Koob 12 car, 50 yards
Corey Gause Jr. 10-14, 273 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT