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McKenzie drops opener to J.U. Blacksher, 18-14

The McKenzie Tigers opened the 2006 season with an 18-14 loss at J.U. Blacksher Friday night.

Special teams for both teams played an all-important role in this thrilling game.

From the opening kickoff

to the waning minutes of the game, McKenzie and J.U. Blacksher made some special plays on special teams.

McKenzie scored early and had a 14-0 lead deep in the second half but the Bulldogs came back via special teams.

First year McKenzie head coach Miles Brown commented on the game.

&uot;I’m proud of this teams’ effort.

They refused to quit and they played extremely hard tonight,&uot; Brown said.

&uot;We will learn from our mistakes and start preparing for Kinston next Monday.&uot;

&uot;We’ve got a great group of guys here and I know they will do some special things here for McKenzie,&uot; Brown said.

Speaking of special things, the game started off with a bang as freshman running back Calvin Henderson coasted 95 yards for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.

Henderson went to the sidelines and took advantage of several key blocks on the way for the score with 11:43 left in the first quarter.

&uot;Our special teams stepped up tonight and made some big plays,&uot; Brown said. &uot;Calvin is a special athlete and I look forward to seeing some great things from him in the future.&uot;

Henderson also had 11 tackles in the game.

On the Bulldogs first possession, they coughed up the ball on their very first play from scrimmage.

McKenzie junior Chance Davis recovered the fumble at the 28-yard line.

The Tigers then drove the ball to the goal line but could not convert as they turned it over on downs.

Tiger junior runningback Elrick Ball had several key runs on the drive while sophomore Jerrall Mobley had a 10-yard run through the middle while shaking off some Bulldog tacklers.

The Tigers sported an option attack out of the spread.

&uot;We’ve got to do better in our red zone situations,&uot; Brown said, &uot;We need to score when giving those opportunities.&uot;

The Tiger defense proved stiff as they held J.U. Blacksher to three and out.

Junior Curtis Ball recorded nine tackles while Sattrick Rudolph, Tyler

Bush, Elrick Ball, Freddie Banks, Bradley Bush, Chance Davis and Mobley all had at least five tackles each for the game.

&uot;Our offense and defense looked strong on occasions,&uot; he said.

Henderson then picked up where he left off on special teams as the frosh returned the punt 37 yards to the Bulldog 28-yard line.

The Tigers would drive down the field again but the ending proved better than before.

The Tigers tacked on another touchdown for a 14-0 lead with 10:50 left in the half.

This 10-play 28-yard drive was capped off by a two-yard pass from junior quarterback Rudolph to Mobley with 10:50 left in the half.

On the TD play, Rudolph sold the fake handoff and bootlegged to the left as Mobley cut inside and left the Bulldog cornerback in the dust.

Elrick Ball ran up the middle for the two-point conversion.

&uot;They (Mobley and Rudolph) are two very good players.

We basically utilize their speed anytime we can,&uot; Brown said.

Elrick Ball rushed for 63 yards on 16 carries while Rudolph chipped in with 40 yards on the night.

The McKenzie Tigers’ defense continued to hold J.U. Blacksher in check until a 3rd and seven conversion was made from midfield.

The Bulldogs connected on a 35 yard pass from Darius Parker to Seth Baggett.

The Bulldogs eventually scored on a one yard run from Parker.

The extra point failed and the lead was cut to 14-6 with 7:30 left in the half.

After the Bulldogs held the Tiger offense, J.U. Blacksher was looking to even the game just before half.

After several key runs, Parker throw up a Hail Mary on fourth down and McKenzie’s Chance Davis intercepted the ball at the two-yard line.

Davis’ play likely saved a TD as three Bulldog recievers were around and ready to catch and run.

&uot;That was a big play by right there,&uot; he said.

The second half started with another special teams bang as freshman Armond

Ball blocked the opening punt.

McKenzie senior Daniel Ballard recovered the ball at the Bulldog 28-yard line.

The Tiger offense then pounded the ball up the middle en route to burning the clock for half the third quarter.

However, Rudolph was stopped at the one yard line on fourth down.

&uot;We’ll work on our execution in the red zone,&uot; Brown said.

The Bulldogs took over at their own one-yard line and sputtered at their own 20-yard line and were looking to punt the ball.

After giving up big plays on special teams, the Bulldogs surprised the Tigers as Tevin McClain faked the punt and rushed 36 yards to the McKenzie 44-yard line.

They kept the momentum and drove down the field and scored with 8:19 left in the game.

The Tiger defense responded by stopping McClain cold turkey on the all important two point conversion for the 14-12 lead.

The game would continue to be dictated by the special teams.

After benefitting from some great special teams play, the Tigers’ special teams fell prown to a bad snap and fumbled the punt attempt.

The Bulldogs now took over at the 23-yard line of McKenzie.

The momentum continued for J.U. Blacksher as Parker scored on a one-yard run with 3:31 left in the game.

The lead was 18-14 after a failed two-point conversion.

McKenzie was driving the ball and made it to the Bulldog 44-yard line until Rudoph was picked off by Baggett.

The Bulldogs ran the clock out for the win.

&uot;It hurts to lose but I know we’ll learn from this experience and be better because of it,&uot; he said.

&uot;Our guys will have a chip on their shoulder for next Friday night.&uot;

Brown also expressed the importance of continuing the strength and conditioning program during the season.

In fact, the team worked out just before they left for the game Friday night.

&uot;We’ll continue to get stronger and you’ll see improvement out of this football team every week,&uot; Brown said.

&uot;We’ll strive to reach our team goal this year.

Our goal is to make the playoffs.&uot;

McKenzie will play at Kinston next Friday night.