WINGATE - Any football player around the game long enough has heard the saying, "It's not how you start, it's how you finish." Friday night, those words rang true for the Central Scarlet Dragons in a 33-14 win at Bald Eagle Area.
The Scarlet Dragons scored 27 unanswered points in the second half to erase a 14-6 halftime deficit and finished the game with 374 yards rushing as they improved to 4-1.
"It's good to get out of here with a win against a good team," Central coach Dave Baker said. "We faced some adversity here tonight, and I like how the kids responded. They stepped up in the second half and played like we know they can."
The start could not have been worse for Central as Bald Eagle Area wide receiver Bryan Greene took the opening kickoff back 87 yards for a score in what was the beginning of the worst half of football the Scarlet Dragons have played this season.
Central finished the first half with three turnovers, including two in the red zone, and eight penalties as it fell behind 14-6 at the break.
The lone bright spot for Central in the first half was a 34-yard touchdown strike from Austin Cunningham to Mike Mock that cut the Bald Eagle lead to 7-6. Three of Central's other four first-half drives ended with turnovers, including two inside the Bald Eagle 10-yard line.
"We simply didn't play well at all in the first half," Baker said. "We put the ball on the ground once right down near the end zone, we made stupid penalties and really just looked sloppy and out of sync."
Meanwhile, Bald Eagle Area found a nice mix of passing and running in the first half. Running backs Dakota Bartley and Kaleb Weaver combined for more than 60 yards on the ground, and quarterback Jason Jones threw for 72 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown strike to Bryce Greene to put the Eagles ahead.
The Eagles had a chance to extend their lead midway through the second quarter. After putting together a 10-play, 61-yard drive, the Eagles had first-and-goal from the Central 9-yard line.
Jones appeared to connect with Bryan Greene for an 8-yard completion to put the ball at the 1-yard line. However, a hurdling penalty was called on Bald Eagle, negating the play. Jones was then sacked on the next two plays, and the Eagles were driven back to the 38-yard line and forced to punt. They never found the red zone again.
"We were right there in the first half playing really well and about to go up by two scores, but then we commit a stupid penalty and it all went downhill from there. After that play we never seemed to recapture any momentum, and it all sort of snowballed on us," Bald Eagle Area coach John Tobias said.
Central scored on each of its first three possessions in the second half and did so without throwing a single pass. In fact, the Dragons did not throw a single pass in the entire second half, instead relying on a punishing ground attack led by Cunningham and Bradi Moore, who both surpassed 100 yards.
"It was pretty simple: We just played better in the second half," Baker said. "We wanted to find something we could do well, and tonight that was run the ball. We kept it on the ground, and we defended and good things happened."
Cunningham added two scores on the ground and one via punt return, and fullback Zac Emerick added a 12-yard touchdown run of his own.
It wasn't just the offense that found its rhythm, however, as the defense was equally dominant after the break. The Scarlet Dragons sacked Jones eight times overall, including five times in the second half. All told the Eagles managed minus-13 yards total in the second half.
"Our defense took over in the second half, and we had a lot of guys get after the quarterback," Baker said. "We knew their quarterback could throw if given time, so we had to get pressure on him and we did."
Central will look to improve to 5-1 next week when it faces off against Fort Hill, Md.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central6 0 14 13 - 33
Bald Eagle Area14 0 0 0 - 14
BE-Brian Greene 87 kick return (Schall kick), 13:50
C-Mock 34 pass from Cunningham (kick failed), 9:10
BE-Bryce Greene 29 pass from Jones (Schall kick), 1:46
C-Cunningham 10 run (pass failed), 9:00
C-Emerick 12 run (Mock pass from Benton), 1:30
C-Cunningham 37 run (run failed), 13:52
C-Cunningham 42 punt return (Slagenweit kick), 5:36
RUSHING: Central-Moore 20-154, Cunningham 13-119, Emerick 10-83, Quarello 3-4, Weyant 2-8, Hoenstine 1-3, Shirey 1-3. Bald Eagle Area-Weaver 10-36, Bartley 9-33, Jones 9-(-45), Bryan Greene 1-11, Struble 1-3, Bryce Greene 1-1, TEAM 1-(-6).
PASSING: Central-Cunningham 2-4-2-34, Moore 0-1-0-0. Bald Eagle-Jones 7-8-0-82
RECEIVING: Central-Mock 1-34, Helsel 0-1. Bald Eagle Area-Bryce Greene 2-53, Bryan Greene 2-12, Bartley 2-6, Kobularcik 1-11.
INTERCEPTIONS: Central-none. Bald Eagle Area-Watkins, Schall