WEST ALEXANDRIA – Games have an ebb and flow to them at times. Momentum shifts back and forth, and when momentum is on your side you have to grasp it and keep it.
Something like that can be hard for a young team like Ansonia to do. The Tigers fell behind by two scores early in Friday’s game at Twin Valley South but were able dominate the second quarter and enter the locker room with momentum – only down by three points.
But Ansonia squandered its opportunity and an experienced South team took advantage in the third quarter, opening a lead that the Panthers would not relinquish.
The first two scores of the game went to Twin Valley South. Ansonia did stop South’s first drive thanks to a Hunter Muir tackle for loss.
But Ansonia made mental mistakes on its next two possessions in the first quarter as penalties put the team in long-yardage situations.
Meanwhile South was able to mix the run and pass to get a touchdown for the lead. The Panthers then scored early in the second quarter, and the Tigers were down 15-0.
A lot of teams would have gotten down at this point. But the Tigers clawed their way back into the game. They played Tiger ball, meaning the team went to double tight ends and ran the ball down the throat of their opponents.
The field was slick from an earlier rain, which delayed the start of the game, and in the first half the Tiger passing attack was out of kilter. But the running game was on, and with no penalties the Tigers punched the ball in for scores their next two possessions. Aydan Sanders scored on carries of 6 and 12 yards. The first score was set up part by a nice Max Wardrip kickoff return to midfield.
South tried to answer before close of the half and drove to the Ansonia 23 with about 38 seconds left on the clock. But the weather was a factor again as a South ball carrier fumbled the ball, and Wardrip fell on it to end the drive.
At this point it was a 15-12 game. Because the Tigers had deferred the coin toss they got the ball to start the second half.
The Tigers had made the last two scores and had a good defensive stop against the Panthers to close the half – they had all the momentum. But their first series of the second half was a lackluster three and out.
Twin Valley South seized the moment and went into high gear of offense. The Panthers quickly marched the ball down the field and scored a touchdown to extend their lead. Suddenly it was South that had all the momentum.
Then on the kickoff, Ansonia coughed up the ball and handed the Panthers a gift. With a short field, South punched the ball in and the Panthers were up 28-12 with about six minutes left in the quarter.
When it rains it pours. Sanders began to have leg problems at this point. He would later return to the game, but he was not as effective as he was earlier. He had been a scorer on offense, and he played outside linebacker on defense. So Ansonia had to scramble to fill two slots.
South’s last score was 75-yard run from scrimmage. A young Tiger team showed that they were gamers, though, by not giving up.
Ansonia’s passing game began to work. Matthew Shook connected with Hunter Muir and Payton Setser to put the Tigers in scoring position, but an interception ended that drive at the 17-yard line.
But Ansonia was persistent and took to the air again on its next possession when Hunter Buckingham threw a 75-yard TD pass to end the scoring for the Tigers.
When the dust had settled on a late night it was South 35, Ansonia 20.
“Well, I want to compliment Twin Valley South on the way they executed their offense,” Ansonia football coach Eugene Hoening said after the game. “They controlled the line of scrimmage and had two hard running backs, plus their quarterback executed their offense well. We had our chances, but we just didn’t make the most of them. Turnovers in the second half threw us off track. But we fought back and scored there at the end so we showed heart there. We now have to get ready for National Trail. They are a wing-T team so we have to prepare for that.”
National Trail is coming off of a decisive win over Jefferson, but the Tigers get to host them at home.