Hornets downed in opener
John Essex missed a trio of golden opportunities late en route to a 14-6 season-opening loss to St. Luke’s Friday night.
Trailing by eight on a 3rd and 27 with less than 1:30 to play in the game, Essex quarterback Travis Tripp shook off a would be sack and stepped into oncoming traffic before hurling the ball deep down the field where Anthony McIntosh shook loose from one his shoes and dove around a Wildcat defender to snag the ball just inches from the ground. The play went for 37 yards and gave Essex new life at the Wildcat 21 yard line.
“Ant made a heck of a catch,” John Essex head coach Jerome Antone said. “That is just pure athleticism.”
Tripp went back to McIntosh on a five-yard stop route on the next play, moving the Hornets to the 16 yard line. But a dropped pass, a bad snap and a pair of blown blocking assignments shut the drive down at the 31 and handed the game to St. Luke’s.
Two series earlier, McIntosh stepped in front of a St. Luke’s heave deep in Hornet territory and took it to the Wildcat nine yard line to set his team’s offense up. The Hornets gained five yards on the first play of the possession and proceeded to lose four over the next three before turning the ball over on downs.
Essex appeared to have a chance to tie the game earlier in the fourth quarter when Tripp hit Terry Fountain over the middle before the receiver shook off a pair of would-be tacklers and sprinted into the end zone to complete a 42-yard scoring pass. The play was called back for an ineligible Hornet receiver downfield.
“They fought hard. I can’t ask for anything more,” Antone said of his players. “We just didn’t drive folks off the ball offensively. It hurts, but you’ve just got to keep your head held high and get better.”
The Hornets’ lone touchdown of the game came on their first offensive possession when Denzell Charleston scored on an 80-yard run. He finished the night with 125 yards on 18 carries.
Despite the offensive struggles, the Hornet defense showed itself well while holding the Wildcats to only 14 points. Antone is hopeful his team can build on that effort when it goes into region play on the road against Autaugaville next week.
“Defensively, we did a heck of a job,” Antone said. “We made a few mistakes, but they really stepped up.”