Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Thomas Dale Drops Heart-Breaker To Cosby
By Blake Belden, staff writer
Aug 29, 2014, 17:50

Marco Carrabotta forced a sack in the first quarter.
The Thomas Dale Knights began the fourth quarter of their season opener against the Cosby Titans with a 10-point lead, a two possession differential, but not quite enough to comfortably finish with a first game victory as the final quarter panned out into a chaotic back and forth effort from both teams.

Less than one minute into the quarter, the Knights committed a passing interference penalty, a play that pushed the Titans closer to the end zone and allowed for Max Hardcastle to catch a touchdown reception on the following snap.

Now, with only a three point lead (13-10) and more than 10 minutes of game left to play, Thomas Dale needed to hold strong and close out the game.

On the following possession, backup quarterback Gabriel McCollin threw a high arcing lob over the defensive line which was readily intercepted by a Titan, where Cosby regained possession within their own 40 yard line.

Thomas Dale retaliated defensively forcing a fumble, grabbing their fourth fumble recovery on the night, and taking the ball back yet again.

The night continued to surprise when on the very next offensive play by the Knights, Cosby answered back forcing another fumble and blowing by the Knights in grey for a fumble return touchdown, taking a 16-13 lead after Thomas Dale blocked the extra point attempt.

Thomas Dale failed to produce again on the offense giving possession back to the Titans. With less than five minutes left in the game, Cosby was forced to punt the ball on a fourth-and-three situation. The ball was passed well over the punter bouncing towards the end zone, and he scrambled back kicking the ball out of bounds. This resulted in a Thomas Dale safety, a one point deficit at 16-15 and a Knights possession.

After three downs, Thomas Dale was in a desperate fourth down and 15 yard scenario. The bleachers thundered under fans' feet and cheers erupted in the humid night air for a Knights resurgence. The ball snapped and McCollin hurled a late center pass to a wide open Corey Leonard, slot receiver, who pulled in a first down and a 28 yard reception with under two minutes to play.

Despite the seemingly miraculous effort, the Knights were not in field goal range and were not able to push forth and retake the lead in the last moments of the game, conceding a final 16-15 loss to Cosby.

Thomas Dale burst into the season aggressively, perhaps a little too much so, racking up 20 penalties for a total of 158 yards, many of which were called for off sides.

"I think a lot of it is kids [were] overly excited about getting out there...There's no excuse for it. We had such a great preseason with no penalties in our preseason game really. I was really upset about those things tonight," said Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker. "We're going to take care of that in practice tomorrow and again [next week]. We've just got to straighten that up."

Eric Finney, who showcased a powerful performance last season in the running back position, missed the Knights' season opener due to a high ankle sprain. But, this did not seem to be an issue as Thomas Dale still exhibited depth in the backfield, bolstered by junior Trent Williams who ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

"The kid's a pretty talented tailback. If we didn't have Eric, he would definitely be our starting tailback for sure," Tucker said following the game on Thursday.

Behind Williams, both Isaiah Lee and Daevon Malone pulled their weight in the run game.

"You've got to say a lot for Daevon [Malone], man. That little kid, he's got more heart than probably anybody on our team. He went out there when Trent started cramping and breaking off nice runs, and then he got the wind knocked out of him," Tucker said.

Despite the presence of an efficient running back crew, the Knights' passing offensive efforts came up short in the loss, with a total of 42 receiving yards off of two completions in the game. This statistic was surely impacted when starting quarterback Khalid Morris was walked off the field and taken out of the game after rushing the ball in the second quarter. Because of this injury, sophomore quarterback McCollin was entered in the mix and couldn't quite find a level of comfort in creating a sufficient passing game through the second half, save for his pass to Leonard in the final minutes of the game.

These offensive ailments may force Thomas Dale to lean heavier on their stout defense, stocked with tenacious players including Darvin Taylor II (who just committed to Florida State), Sammy Stark, Marco Carrabotta and several other players hungry for the role.

Tucker said the defense will be key to keeping the team in every competition this season.

"With the big injuries we had tonight, defense is going to have to step up and take over, and they did tonight. They gave us turnovers and we just couldn't take advantage of it," Tucker said.

In addition to both Finney and Morris, the Knights suffered several other injuries in the loss, of which Tucker did not comment on the nature or potential seriousness of those injuries.

This is not the first time Thomas Dale has faced adversity from an injury heavy roster, coming off of their 2013 season with a slew of injuries that forced them to seek assistance from players well into the bench.

"We really got to dig deep this week at practice, find our reserves, find out who is going to step up. Because not only now is our second team a first team, now [we've] got to find a new second team guy," Tucker said. "So, we're going to go back to the drawing board and keep doing what we do at Thomas Dale: run the football and just plug in somebody new."

Thomas Dale (0-1) will look to grab their first win at home against L.C. Bird on Friday.

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