Flames lose by one point

By MEL PERKINS

The Flames kicked off their home schedule last Friday night when they played host to the Shenango Wildcats at J.C. Stone Field in North Park. Both teams entered the fray with 1 – 1 records, and Northgate was looking to bounce back from their 33 – 0 loss to Union the Friday before.

After a hard fought battle turned into a nail biter, the Flames fell to the Shenango Wildcats by the score of 7 – 6. With less than two minutes on the clock, the Flames were unable to score on a two point conversion that would have given them the come-from-behind win. After the game, Coach T.J. Wiley said, “Even though we lost, I am so proud of the effort of our kids. We have a very young team, we are so young, and we keep giving ourselves self-inflicted wounds at the worst times. We just have to stay after it.”

The Flames kicked off to start the game, and the defense quickly settled into their stingy style of defense that we have been accustomed to in the past. The Flames were going to hold their ground at all costs. , Shenango was forced to punt after going 3-and-out.

On Shenango’s second series, the Northgate defense rallied. On first down, Cherron Fowler broke through the Wildcats’ line, dropping their running back for a three-yard loss. On second down, Nate O’Mara made the stop for no gain. Then, on third down, Zack Reskovac penetrated the line, knocking the ball free from the Wildcats’ QB, and Surron Adams came up with the loose ball. Unfortunately, the Flames were unable to take advantage of the turnover and were forced to punt.

With about 1:30 left in the first quarter, the Wildcats managed to put together a drive to go 64 yards on 9 plays to score the first TD of the game. The extra point kick was good, and the Flames were down 7 – 0.

Both teams hunkered down on defense after that. The next two series ended with punts, and the Flames’ Riley Crow grabbed a Wildcats’ pass and returned it to midfield to put an end to Shenango’s next series.

With time running out in the half, Eric Hogan, out of the shotgun, ran behind Adams and scampered down to the Shenango 35, picking up a first down. The Flames spiked the ball to stop the clock. The next two plays went incomplete, and then Heman Darjee came on to attempt a 43-yard field goal with time running out in the half. The kick had the distance but not the height, and at the end of the first half, the Flames were down 7 – 0.

The Wildcats kicked off to start the second half, but there was no offense to be found. A fumble ended the Flames’ first series, but the defense would bring some pressure when Clayton Cooper recorded a sack for a three-yard loss. Then Jacian Sustayta broke up a Shenango pass before he snagged an interception to end the Wildcats’ set of downs.

Northgate was unable to take advantage of the turnover, and the third quarter ended with the score still 7 – 0. But, late in the fourth quarter, the Flames would threaten, and it looked like the momentum had swung. The defense had held their ground, shutting out the Wildcats for three straight quarters.

On their last series of the game, the Flames started on their 35. Adams and Hogan took turns running and attacking the Shenango line, and crossing midfield to the Wildcats’ 42 before a sack set them back 10 yards. Then, on second down from their 48, Christopher Davin dropped back in the pocket and hit Gary Hairston to get back to the original line of scrimmage on the Shenango 42. Looking at a fourth down and 10, Hogan connected with Adams and the Flames set up shop on the Wildcats’ four. That’s when Adams hit a clean hole and drove a Shenango linebacker back off the line to get on the scoreboard.

Down one with the score 7 – 6, Wiley made the call to go for the win. The call went to Adams, who hit the line and got tangled up and taken down on the one yard line.

The Flames attempted the onside kick, but to no avail. The Flames fell to the Wildcats 7 – 6. Northgate’s Surron Adams finished the night with 114 yards rushing, and Chris Davin went 5-of-15 passing for 112 yards.

After the game, Wiley stuck to his guns, saying, “Some people will question the call, but I don’t play for second place, I play to win. The play was there, it was the right play call. If I had that scenario again, I would do the exact same thing.”

The Flames host the Vikings from Sto-Rox tonight at J.C. Stone Field.