In a span of just more than two minutes, the Fort Zumwalt East Lions took control.
Ahead by six with just six minutes left to go in the first half, the Lions went for the three-part knockout of the host Francis Howell Central Spartans in the 2012 season opener. With the score standing at 12-6 in favor of East, the Lions went touchdown, forced fumble, touchdown in 2:02 to take over the game.
The swift turn of events gave put the Lions in control—a position East wouldn’t relinquish en route to a season-opening 34-20 victory.
“We felt like it was a good team effort all the way around," East head coach Scott Eacret said. "We played some good team defense, we played some good offense, at times."
East never trailed in the contest.
"We didn't played well," Howell Central head coach Todd Breck said. "New offense—not using that as an excuse, but we've got to learn the offense, the intricacies of the offense."
On the first possession of the game, the Lions started on its own 44-yard line. The shorter field proved beneficial for the Lions game plan—a series of screens helped moved the chains and get the offense going.
In little less than three minutes, East marched down the field and D’Andre Campbell snared a two-yard pass for the first score of the game. A blocked point after made the score 6-0.
The Lions would go up 12-0 after the defense helped them out. Linebacker Mason Burnett picked up a sack on fourth down to give East the ball back. After that, the Lions quick strike offense struck again. Quarterback Shane Barrett hit wide receiver Tommy Bryan for a 19-yard catch and run score.
With the missed two-pointer, East was up by 12 at the end of 12 minutes.
Howell Central wasted little time clawing back into the contest. On the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter, DeBoise Hill toted the ball 11-yards for the score. A missed point-after made it 12-6 in favor of the visiting Lions.
As the second quarter neared its midway point, East took control.
East continued to show it had little trouble moving the ball down the field. The Lions run right at the Spartans and Barrett punched in a one-yard score. With a two-point strike Matt Ehterton, the Lions were ahead 20-6.
On the ensuing possession, the Lions defense again came up with a big play. Again it was Burnett. A Spartan wideout caught the ball in space before Burnett appeared and jarred the ball the loose.
The forced fumble gave the Lions the ball Central’s 35 with plenty of time left before half—time it didn’t need. Not wasting the plays, East continued to march down the field with quick passes and runs. With 4:19 to go in the half, Barrett scored his second rushing touchdown in 2:02 and a good kick put East up 27-6 at the half.
"It was a game of momentum swings, and momentum plays such a big part in football," Eacret said. "That was huge for us—to into the locker room up. The kids, it gave them some confidence, because they were unsure—we've never played Central before. They were really unsure with how good they were, and how bad we were."
Said Breck, "We didn't tackle well in the first half. I didn't think we were very physical on either side of the ball early in the game."
Comfortably ahead in the second half, the Lions began to slow down. The defense for the Spartans started making some stops and the offense was stalled. Unfortunately for Howell Central, the same thing happened with it had the ball. Neither team could must much offense for the first 10-plus minutes of the second half.
With 1:13 left in quarter No. 3, the Lions finally found the endzone again. Not content with a key sack and forced fumble, Burnett broke free for a 25-yard touchdown run and East was sitting pretty with a 34-6 lead.
Howell Central, however, wasn’t ready to call it a night. On the ensuing possession, the Spartans made offense look easy—at least on one play. Desmond Young carved up the Lions defense with a 38-yard touchdown run with just seconds left on the clock in the third. The score, and failed point after, stood at 34-12 in favor of the Lions.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Spartans seemed determine to get the momentum on its side. Brandon Jefferson recovered a fumble just 3:25 into the fourth at midfield—a nice follow up to his third-quarter interception.
The tide quickly turned back to East about 30 seconds later. Etherton made a nifty interception and the Lions had the ball back.
Central made things close with three minutes left in the game. Allen scored the second 38-yard run for the Spartans on the day to cut the lead. A good two-point attempt made the score 34-20 in favor of East.
Howell Central tried to mount a comeback late, but again, the Lions defense came up big. After two big quarterback hurries forced intentional grounding penalties, Lawrence Veal intercepted a pass to clinch the game for East.
"Good grief, that whole defense played well," Eacret said.
The Lions will head home next week for a big-time matchup against Francis Howell North. Howell Central will stay at home and take on Fort Zumwalt South.