New Hope High School junior safety Immanuel Jones tackles Forest wide receiver Jarahvea Washington in their game Friday night in Columbus. The Trojans gained only 8 yards and had four turnovers. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
August 18, 2018 10:32:30 PM
Down 2-0 at halftime, the New Hope High School football team's defense had stuffed three Forest drives inside the Trojans' 25-yard line.
The break was a welcome reprieve for the defense, which delivered a strong effort in coach Wade Tackett's debut at the school.
A big hit to kick off the third quarter gave the team additional juice, but a busted coverage on the ensuing drive gifted Forest a deep touchdown pass. Then, New Hope's offense stalled the rest of the game, which enabled Forest to overcome four lost fumbles to win 23-0.
"I thought we were going to pull it out after the half," New Hope linebacker senior Kobe Matthews said. "It's football. It's on to the next one. Shout out to God ... we'll be back next week."
Matthews did his best to match quarterback Jacob Brooks' bid for the game's best performance. He had four tackles for a loss and forced and recovered a fumble. Brooks, though, led the game with 17 carries for 180 yards, including a 63-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter to put the game away. He also intercepted a Ryan Burt pass at safety.
"No. 14 (Brooks) is a heck of a player," Tackett said. "They were just trying to run it down our throats, and our defense held up well. Offensively, I don't know if we had any sustained drives. We didn't give (the defense) any breathing room. Our defense was tired. Forest played on our side of the 50 about 80 percent of the night."
Tackett called Matthews the "heart" of his defense and a "game-changer." Matthews missed most of training camp do to a health issue and returned to practice Monday, Tackett said.
"He's a quiet leader, and a guy football coaches love to have on the team," Tackett said.
Matthews, though, couldn't do enough to overcome an offense that gained only 8 yards and had four turnovers. Braylen Miller had 22 carries for 39 yards.
An offensive pass interference call wiped out a 45-yard touchdown pass from Burt to Deajon Miller that was New Hope's moment of life on offense.
"It's pretty frustrating, but I love it, though," Matthews said. "Those are my brothers, and I'd do it all over again."
Tackett said the struggles on offense were "really unexpected" given what he'd seen in practice. He said the team's youth -- the Trojans have six seniors -- will take time to overcome, but the defensive performance gives the team a building block.
Tackett said the first challenge is improving the play of the offensive line so Braylen Miller will have room to run and Burt will have time to throw. The Trojans also lost two fumbles on high snaps, including one that resulted in a safety.
"We'll watch film, make assessments, and make changes if needed," Tackett said. "Players have been really good about buying into the critiques we see on film and trying to get themselves better. We just have to grow up over the next few weeks."
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