New Hope sophomore running back Braylen Miller escapes a tackle by Quentin Chiquito. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
September 24, 2017 12:02:27 AM
By DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
Kris Pickle saw it in practice and knew it would carry over into game night.
His New Hope Trojans football team was flat and uninspired when they took the field Friday at Caledonia and led 7-3 at the half over the winless Confederates.
Pickle expected far more, even without starting quarterback Kyree Fields and starting running back Tyran Reed.
A "keep it real" promise at halftime did the trick, though, and New Hope walked out of the Lowndes County clash with a 34-3 win.
Pickle said the Trojans (4-2) were looking ahead to next week's game against Louisville.
"We just told them that if we don't find 11 guys that will play, we'll find a new 11 that will next week," Pickle said. "We came out in the first half just like we did in practice this week - going through the motions and playing lackadaisical football. If something negative could have happened in the first half, it did.
"We've had other times this year where we haven't been focused. We'll get it fixed."
The fixes - at least Friday - were immediate. Jeremy Tate returned the opening kickoff of the second half for 35 yards, and Braylen Miller scored two plays later on a 26-yard run. New Hope got a stop on defense and mounted a 10-play, 89-yard scoring drive that was sealed with the first of Ryan Burt's three scoring passes, a 13-yard fade to Tate up the right sideline for a 21-3 lead.
The Confederates (0-5) have developed a trend of keeping games close - they've had halftime deficits of 5, 2 and 4 points in three of the last four games - before wearing down late in games.
"We have about 40 players, and [New Hope] has about 80," said Ricky Kendrick, Caledonia coach. "We have most of our guys playing both ways. And it was a very hot night for this late in the season. Our guys played hard all night, and we were within two scores late in the game. We took some chances late to get back in the game, which set them up to score a late touchdown."
Kendrick said his coaching staff did a good job of knowing New Hope's tendencies, and they were able to capitalize periodically, like on a 28-yard pass from Seth Brown to Graham Weseli on fourth-and-5 to set up the team's only score.
"New Hope has a very good team," Kendrick said. "It could have been even worse if they were able to convert some of the late passes or the punt they attempted to block with about two minutes to go in the game. But again, our guys played to the end."
Dylan Hankins led Caledonia's offense with 88 yards on 22 carries. The Confederates, though, were held to just 118 yards of total offense and just seven first downs.
Pickle said New Hope deployed odd fronts and slants to utilize the quickness of Rayshaun Gibson and Jariel Butler.
"Our defensive line has played well all year long," Pickle said, "but we'd gotten to the point where we weren't tackling very well, and I thought we tackled well this week. And when you're able to make plays in the backfield, that makes all the difference."
New Hope sophomore running back Braylen Miller had 166 yards on 18 carries and scored twice. Friday marked the second straight game he'd eclipsed 100 yards in Reed's stead.
"Braylen keeps getting better every week, and continuing to be patient and protecting the football a whole lot better," Pickle said.
Pickle said Fields rolled an ankle last week but will return next week. Reed will likely miss another week of play.
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