Elba defeats Bobcats, 43-28

Published 10:11 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

It didn’t take Opp head coach Jack Whigham many words to come up with his team’s biggest weak spot in the Bobcats’ 43-28 opening loss to Elba Friday night. In fact, it only took two.

“Special teams,” Whigham said. “We were really sloppy and have a lot of work to do on special teams. I take full responsibility for that.”

One major special teams blunder came at the start of the second half. The Bobcats (0-1) trailed just 14-7 at halftime and kicked off to Elba (1-0) to start the second half. But Opp failed three times in a row to kick the ball correctly — twice kicking it out of bounds and also being called for an illegal procedure penalty on a kick.

As a result, Opp was forced to kick off from its own 30-yard line, giving Elba excellent starting field position when Sandarius Reed returned it to the Opp 42. The Tigers scored on that opening drive of the second half on a 6-yard run by Carlos Matias, increasing their lead to 14 points.

Later in the game, Elba’s Gavin Respress returned a punt 52 yards to give Elba its biggest lead of the night, 43-14, with 8:31 left.

“I really think that opening half kicking fiasco hurt us,” Whigham said.

Opp scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the score respectable. The Bobcats also had a solid performance with the rushing game, led by Richard Davis, who had 151 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

“We had some positives in this first game,” Whigham said. “We ran the ball really well. We made some good blocks and opened some holes. We were hoping for a close game. We really thought if we could keep it close, then we’d be able to wear them down a little at the end.”

Elba took an early 7-0 lead with 3:46 left in the first quarter on a 3-yard run by quarterback Michael Lindsey. Opp responded on its next drive when Josh Scarborough scored on a 2-yard run with 10:05 left in the second quarter.

The Tigers followed with a scoring drive of their own, although they were helped out by two fourth-down conversions, each by penalty.

Facing a fourth-and-8 from the Opp 26, Lindsey threw a pass toward the end zone that was broken up by an Opp player. But the Opp player was called for pass interference on the play, giving Elba the ball back with a first-and-10 from the Opp 13.

Later in the drive, Elba faced a fourth-and-2 from the Opp 5 and managed to draw the Bobcats offsides to pick up the first down. Two plays later, Gunnar McCollough scored on a 1-yard run to put Elba up 14-7.

“We had a lot of costly penalties tonight,” Whigham said. “We may not have always agreed with the calls, but they were called, and we’ve got to fix that sort of thing. You can’t let penalties beat you.”

After going down 21-7 on Matias’ touchdown run in the third quarter, the Bobcats responded with a scoring drive of their own. Davis scored from 4 yards out with 3:50 left in the third quarter to cut Elba’s lead to 21-14. But the Bobcats would get no closer, allowing 22 unanswered points to the Tigers.

Opp’s final two fourth-quarter touchdowns came by way of the rushing game. Scarborough scored on a 1-yard run with 4:45 left and the Bobcats tried for the two-point conversion and failed, making the score 43-20.

Davis scored a 6-yard run with 1:32 left in the game; he also added the two-point conversion on a successful run.

Scarborough finished with 76 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns. Elba’s Matias had 21 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

In the passing game, Opp’s Gavin Free was 2-of-3 for 19 yards and an interception — both receptions were by Josh Thompson. Elba’s Lindsey was 11-of-16 for 78 yards, a touchdown and an interception — the interception was made by Opp’s Alex Banks.

Opp opens its region schedule when it travels to Holtville next Friday.