Football endures growing struggles against Wesley

By Maximillian C. Burgos
Sports Editor

The Lions dropped a conference match at home against the No. 24 Wesley College Wolverines on Saturday, Sept. 16. The Wolverines won 33-0 at Lions Stadium and put the Lions at 0-3 this season. Wesley improved to 1-1 in their campaign.

The Lions received the ball to start the game. The offense was forced three-and-out in quick order, setting the precedent for the game. Senior quarterback Trevor Osler was heavily pressured during the whole drive and the offense could not get anything going. Wesley managed to block the punt on the fourth down, adding insult to injury.

Cowperthwait was part of the offensive line
that encountered a tough Wesley defense. (Courtesy of Sports Information)

The Lions defense held fast and limited the Wolverines to a 34-yard field goal attempt that missed and went wide and to the right. The momentum from the Lions’ stoppage of the Wolverines and the Wolverines’ missed field goal did not translate back to the offense, which for the second time went three and out. The Lions managed to get a pretty solid punt afterwards.

Wesley, in quick order, took the ball down field and punched into the end zone with an authoritative running game that would cause the Lions trouble the entire game. However, Wesley struggled to make the extra point, striking the left upright post and deflecting the ball back to the offensive line, hitting a player on the helmet.

On their third drive, the Lions started moving the ball more consistently. The offensive line still struggled to run the ball at any capacity, but senior running back Khani Glover showcased his acting abilities by faking a running back drive that fooled the entire defense, allowing Osler to hit a wide receiver screen to gash the Wesley defense. The Lions yet again stall at the Wolverines 39-yard line.

With a well-finessed punt, the Lions managed to pin the Wolverines back on their own 10-yard line, but to no avail as the Wolverines drove the ball 90 yards on three plays to punch it into the end zone in less than a minute and 10 seconds. The Lions fans booed and fell silent as Wesley climbed out to a 13-0 lead towards the end of the first quarter. The only positive to come from the drive was senior defensive back Alshamiere Fields chasing and tackling down Wesley sophomore running back E.J. Lee to prevent a touchdown drive. Lee had ran for 76 yards before. The tackle would be for naught though, since the Wolverines punched it in two plays later on a vicious buck sweep run to the right.

Wesley’s lead only climbed from there, capping at 33 in the fourth quarter. The Lions defense was plagued by missed tackles, and their offense faltered with indecision paired with inconsistent line play. Head coach Casey Goff commented on the offensive line play after the game.

“I think they are coming along. Obviously, there is progress to be made,” Goff said. “We have to continue to get better on both sides of the ball. I still think it’s a matter of learning new systems and the terminology. If we are going to have any success, the guys up front have to get it done. We have to continue to improve.”

Senior offensive lineman Jake Cowperthwait and junior offensive lineman Ryan Signora also commented on the line’s performance after the game.

“Well, they were what we thought they were going to be,” Cowperthwait said. “They were strong kids, quick with the ball and they’re ranked whatever they were ranked for a reason. We have to be better on pass protection and be more physical up front.”

“There’s no denying they are a good team,” Signora added. “They have a lot phenomenal athletes out there, but we can’t let that be an excuse for a poor performance. We have to go back and look at the film to fix the problems for upcoming weeks, so we can keep getting better.”

The Lions had their opportunities to score during the game. Right before halftime, the Lions offense drove down the field and threatened to score in the red zone. They threw the ball twice, one to sophomore wide receiver Vincent Guckin, who had the ball in his hands in the end zone for a split second before a defender ripped it out. After Osler took a punishing sack, they went for it again right before the clock ran out. Osler delivered a strike to his receiver’s outside shoulder, but the defender managed to make a play on the ball for the defensive stand.

Though the Lions were shutout in the game, the team fought hard throughout the entire contest, showing a lot of heart. They kept their heads up the entire time, making nothing too easy for the Wolverines. The Lions also did manage to get some takeaways on defense.  Goff spoke about his team’s performance.

“If we go out and execute, god, if we go out and tackle, this game would be different,” Goff said. “If our kids had the confidence to make plays against a team like this, we could put ourselves in better positions… We’ve made some personnel changes. A big part is that some people have come back from injury… Today we had guys in positions that we have to make plays. We have to get back to fundamentals.”

The Lions fall to 0-3 for the season, but they have shown an immense amount of heart so far this year. They will face off against Salisbury University next Saturday, Sept 23, at noon at Lions Stadium. Goff expressed confidence in his team and their ability to jump back into the groove of things, but only time will tell.