GAME 11: TAPPS DIVISION I AREA PLAYOFFS, HOTZE FIELD INSIDE GRANGER STADIUM
Dallas Bishop Lynch 42
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Quarterback Peyton Matocha ‘19 threw two first-half touchdown passes and running back Jaylen Davis ‘19 scored to give the Eagles the third-period advantage but St. Thomas couldn’t maintain the mojo and fell in the playoff opener after five consecutive postseason wins at home since 2011.
After Davis rushed three times in four plays for 48 yards including the touchdown bolt from eight yards out to push Eagle Football in front 23-21, Lynch answered with an 18-play touchdown drive kept alive by two St. Thomas penalties for first downs. The sixth lead change of the game was the last and the Eagles surrendered a 56-yard touchdown jaunt with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to all but seal the outcome before a cosmetic Friars score in the game’s final ticks.
Head Coach Tim Fitzpatrick: “It’s a disappointing finish especially for our seniors in their last game on their home field. We had a great response coming out of the locker room to start the second half, seized control but couldn’t finish. We had our chances. Lynch was the better team today.”
The Eagles were stunned on the first snap from scrimmage for a 30-yard touchdown gash but remained poised and played with a sense of urgency and identity deep into the third quarter, countering with points on three of their first four possessions.
A Davis burst for 27 yards triggered a series that stalled inside the Lynch 10-yard line before kicker Jacob Manley ‘18 connected from 24 yards for the field goal to narrow the STH deficit to 7-3.
Next Matocha (9-17 for 163 yards) capitalized on a clean pocket and lofted a 57-yard connection to running back Parker Nelms ‘18 who coasted untouched through the Lynch secondary for 10-7 and the first STH lead of the game.
Matocha needed only six plays and two minutes for his second surgical execution, a perfect touch toss to find Daniel Perkins ‘16 in stride breaking loose for 67 yards and a 17-14 cushion with 7:37 to go in the first half.
The marathon march that pushed Eagle Football behind for good bled more than nine minutes off the clock in the third period. The Eagles allowed conversions on third-and-nine and third-and-six before Lynch took advantage of a third-down taunting penalty following an incomplete pass that would have forced a punt from their own territory.
The Eagles then were stymied with a fourth-and-five completion good for 15 yards before the final staggering dagger in a series of self-inflicted wounds … flagged for off-sides on a Lynch field goal attempt from 24 yards that instead awarded a first-and-goal from the brink of the end zone.
The Friars cashed in on the repeated Eagle generosity for the touchdown that swung the scoreboard 28-23 with only :49 to go in the quarter.
“Our players expect to make the key plays throughout a football game that enable you to win. And when you do, you’ve done your job, snap to whistle. The extracurricular stuff comes back to haunt you. Our tacking wasn’t to the standard we needed. Too often our guys waited for someone else to make a play instead of doing it yourself … hesitation … kills you on defense. But give (Lynch) credit, some really talented backs, especially when they get in space.”
GETTING DOWN WITH THE ‘D’
The Eagles defense was victimized for 72 yards on seven straight rushing attempts including a touchdown on third down from the STH 14-yard line to create a 14-10 deficit late first period.
But the unit rallied behind Sam Yeboah ‘17 and Elliott Hammon ‘17 up front and defensive back Sean Madden to temporarily frustrate the Friars, including three punts in their next four possessions.
MOVING THE STICKS
The Eagles were outgained 379-341 and outrushed 308-178.
The Eagles were unable to take full advantage of 13 Lynch penalties worth 104 yards, including two flags in three snaps in the final period for illegal formation which wiped out sizable Lynch touchdown romps.
STATE OF PLAY
Eagle Football absorbed its earliest playoff elimination since 2010 and three appearances in the TAPPS state semifinals in five seasons.
The Eagles ended 2016 with a 5-6 record after recovering from a treacherous early season schedule to reset with four consecutive wins, two by shutout, earn a second-place finish in District 3 and secure Granger Stadium for their opening playoff game for the sixth straight season.
But the considerable development that surfaced throughout the midseason renaissance coupled with the former bulletproof Hotze home advantage where the Eagles had won 28 of their previous 30 games wasn’t enough to ignite a Dream On run through the TAPPS playoffs.
It went by, like dusk to dawn
Isn’t that the way
Everybody’s got the dues in life to pay
I know nobody knows
Where it comes and where it goes
I know it’s everybody sin
You got to lose to know how to win
“Our young guys were forced to step up throughout the season … went to war (starting) eight sophomores. They’ll benefit and the program will benefit from all the valuable experience they gained, just not right now. The return on the investment comes down the road. I feel badly for our seniors who remained positive and committed after the rough start … helping our team gain more of a competitive edge … and leading the pups into a playoff game.”
After reloading and redefining the roster Eagle Football takes direct aim on regaining the form that fueled a 40-7 record during Fitzpatrick’s first four seasons as head coach.
The priorities are addressing coverage flaws, inefficiency on third down and in the red zone, and being committed to the improvement process this summer.
Champions are made when the stands are empty.
“I told the kids in the locker room … remember the feeling. When you have to sacrifice in the spring and summer … get up here to work and push yourself hard to improve … remember the empty feeling leaving here tonight. We’ll build on this experience. We’re all in it together … a family.”
Yeah, sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me, just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away
Dream until your dreams come true
Eagle Fight Never Dies!