Slow start costs Dover in home-opening loss to Red Land
- Dover spotted Red Land a 21-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
- The Eagles forced four turnovers against the Patriots, but only turned them into seven points.
- Dover sophomore running back Derek Arevalo had 139 yards rushing, including an 80-yard touchdown run.
DOVER — The Dover Eagles waited three weeks to finally play a home football game.
Unfortunately, the game played out much differently on the field on Friday night than the players probably dreamt in their heads.
Dover spotted the Red Land Patriots a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and could never fully recover, losing, 38-14, and falling to 1-2 on the season. Red Land improved to 3-1 on the year, bouncing back form its only defeat of the season last Friday night.
After sophomore quarterback Dawson Jesmer threw an interception on the third offensive play of the game for the Eagles, Dover got a bitter taste of just how the game was going to turn out for it.
On Red Land's very first snap of the game on offense, quarterback Jacob Radic threw a quick screen pass out to wide receiver Matt Moody. The Eagles' linebacker covering Moody made a beat on the ball, looking to make a sure interception and get Dover the ball right back. However, the ball tipped off his hands and fell into the lap of Moody, who then took it 25 yards for a touchdown in the game's opening minute.
The Eagles never recovered.
"A game of inches," Dover head coach Wayne Snelbaker said. "We're sitting down here and our outside linebacker just misses that pick and we're talking a whole different ballgame."
Snelbaker was right because it's not like his team didn't have its own chances. The Eagles just failed to take advantage of what the Patriots gave them. Following another quick 3-and-out on its second possession, Dover was forced to punt. But, a Red Land fumble on the play resulted in the Eagles recovering the ball in Patriot territory, sparking new life into the team. However, that drive ended in an interception as well.
Red Land went on to put together a long scoring drive that ended with another Moody touchdown catch, this one also from 25 yards out. Quickly down 14-0, Dover struggled to get any offensive rhythm going in the first quarter and before it knew it, a blocked punt by Joe Crocenzi resulted in a 10-yard touchdown for the Patriots and a 21-0 lead before the first quarter even concluded.
To the Eagles' credit, they never lied down. Knowing they had plenty of game left to play, the defense stiffened and the offense took advantage of some careless ball carrying by Red Land and turned it into the second quarter's only touchdown. Cole Jesmer came up with an interception, setting up the team's only touchdown of the half. He also returned a block punt deep inside Patriot territory, but an interception in the endzone ended any chance at points.
By halftime, though, Dover was right in the thick of things, trailing just 21-7, with each team turning the ball over three times in the first half and four times apiece, for the game.
"I think with this team, being as young as they are, they tend to read things, they believe things until they get settled in and figure out, 'Hey, we can play with this team,'" Snelbaker said. "...It's little things and it really goes back to being an inexperienced team and we're trying to find our way."
The Eagles made it a contest out of the break and going into the fourth quarter, outscoring Red Land 7-3 in the quarter to make it a manageable 24-14 game with 12 minutes to play.
But, by the fourth quarter, Dover was just too worn down. The ground-it-out, physical nature of the Patriots' offense, led by the stocky Justin Johnson, eventually proved to be the difference.
Johnson broke off a 35-yard touchdown run in the opening minute of the final quarter to push Red Land's lead to 31-14 and then a third connection between Radic and Moody midway through the quarter put the game out of reach.
Johnson was a horse for the Patriots, rushing for a game-high 190 yards on 22 carries and one score. As a team, Red Land rushed for 295 yards, with Radic accounting for 71 of his own. Through the air, he only threw for 95 yards on 6-of-18 passing, but half of those completions found their way into the endzone, courtesy of Moody.
Still, if there's one thing the Patriots need to clean up moving forward, it's the turnovers. After coughing the ball up five times in last week's 35-30 loss to Carlisle, three more turnovers against the Eagles on Friday night again prevented the Red Land offense from really putting up a big point total.
"Especially in close games, it kills you. We learned that last week," Patriots' head coach Chad Weaver said about the turnover problems. "So, it's one of those things, in practice, we just have to emphasize it."
For Dover, it got a big night on the ground from sophomore running back Derek Arevalo. He led the team with 139 yards on 14 carries, including ripping off a big 80-yard touchdown run on the first play following Red Land's field goal early in the third quarter.
Jesmer actually leveled things out after a shaky first quarter, tossing for 136 yards on 13-of-25 passing. Fittingly, his favorite target on the night was his older brother, Cole, who hauled in four catches for 58 yards, both team highs.
After a rocky home opener and an up-and-down non-league schedule that saw the Eagles get pounded with injuries, they'll now turn their attention to Division II play in the York-Adams League.
Dover will be back at home next Friday night, hosting Gettysburg (1-2) in its Division II opener.
RED LAND 38, DOVER 14
RL — Moody 25-yard catch (Stout kick), 11:05
RL — Moody 25-yard catch (Stout kick), 4:56
RL — Crocenzi returns blocked punt 10 yards (Stout kick), 3:09
Do — Arevalo 14-yard run (Noll kick), 3:27
RL — Stout 32-yard field goal, 10:25
Do — Arevalo 80-yard run (Noll kick), 10:10
RL — Johnson 35-yard run (Stout kick), 11:08
RL — Moody 5-yard catch (Stout kick), 6:28
First Downs: RL, 21. Do, 13
Rushes-Yards: RL, 41-295. Do, 36-161
Passing Yards: RL 390. Do, 297
Comp-Attempts-INTs: RL, 6-18-1. Do, 13-25-3
Penalties-Yards: RL, 7-45. Do, 4-30.
Punts-Average: RL, 1-28.0. Do, 5-20.0
Fumbles-Lost: RL, 4-3. Do, 4-1
Individual Passing: RL, Jacob Radic, 6-18-95, 3 TD's. Do, Dawson Jesmer, 13-25-136.
Individual Rushing: RL, Justin Johnson, 22-190. Radic, 9-71. Nathan Stahl, 5-15. Michael Stank, 3-12. Hunter Briner, 1-5. Justin Hertzog, 1-2. Do, Derek Arevalo, 14-139. Brandon Lawyer, 7-29. William Tomes, 4-6. Brady Bowman, 1-6. Shaun Hinkle, 1-2. Amari Peterson, 1-(-)3. Jesmer, 8-(-)18.
Individual Receiving: RL, Matt Moody, 4-75. Jaelyn Gaither, 1-10. John Greene, 1-10. Do, Cole Jesmer, 4-58. Arevalo, 3-19. Peterson, 2-18. Bowman, 1-18. Andrew Hoffman, 1-17. Hinkle, 2-6.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org