Gar-Field senior Ryan Mason completed 9-of-23 passes for 112 yards with a touchdown and an interception in Friday's season opening loss to Battlefield High School. The Indians' offense never really found a rhythm, and had four consecutive three-and-out series before gaining a first down with less than five minutes to play in the second quarter.
"We have to do a better job protecting him," said Indians head coach Thomas Gryder. "As a quarterback, anytime a player comes clean [and is not blocked], you're not gonna to be efficient."
Gar-Field allowed five sacks for a total loss of 26 yards, four of which occurred in the second half. However, the Indians most struggled with establishing a rushing game, which forced Gryder to call more passing plays. The Indians had a game total of 23 rushing attempts for 58 yards.
Defensively, the Indians showed flashes of brilliance; it held the defending state champions to no score in the first quarter and even blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt. However, things slowly started to unravel in the second quarter as Battlefield's two-man rushing attack found traction. The Bobcats' first drive produced four first downs and burned four minutes off the clock, mostly due to the efforts of senior Michael Tolliver, who put the first points on the scoreboard with an 8-yard run up the middle.
Battlefield's next possession would have been a three-and-out effort, but Gar-Field was penalized for too many players on the field. The Bobcat's run on fourth-and-inches earned a first down, and on the next play senior Andrew Smith broke a 28-yard run placing the Bobcats on the 7-yard line. Ryan Swingle then connected with wide receiver Michael Jorgenson to take a 14 point lead with less than four minutes left in the half.
"We've always had a multiple back system which allows us to switch fresh players in an out," said Smith. "Plus the offensive line is always doing their jobs, blocking and making big holes for us, so it's really the offensively line, not the backs; it's the offensive line and also the receivers down field blocking that allows us to run so well."
Smith produced 74 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries; Tolliver had 99 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
On the resulting kickoff return, Gar-Field senior LaRon Hinton ran into a teammate and fumbled the ball on the 20-yard line. After three strong defensive plays by the Indians, Battlefied kicked a 37-yard field goal to take a 17-0 lead into halftime.
"There's certain things you cannot do: you can't turn the ball over and you can't have mental mistakes on special teams," said Gryder.
With the Indians' first possession of the third quarter, the offense looked as if it had found life after a screen pass to Shakeem Copeland gained 43 yards and placed Gar-Field in the red zone. Then, with 12 yards to go on fourth down, Mason pump faked defenders and connected with David Bailey on a fade route into the back left of the end zone, making the score 24-6. The Indians missed the extra point kick.
"We played a lot of defense in the first half and it wore us down," said Gryder. "As the game progressed I think that hurt us the most because we couldn't tackle as well; we were tired. The effort was there, but the execution was not."
Gar-Field's next opponent is Stonewall Jackson.