ALBANY – Yeah, Albany is 0-2 in District 9-3A play, but Hornets coach Mike Janis is hopeful his team has something to build on coming out of Thursday’s 21-13 loss to Jewel Sumner.
The Cowboys scored the game’s first three touchdowns before the Hornets battled back for a pair of fourth-quarter scores at Jessie Fletcher Memorial Stadium.
“We came out, and I think we just overplayed,” Janis said. “We were very intense. The effort was there. It’s just some guys that are not necessarily following their assignments because they’re trying to go out and make plays. I’ve said this before, I’m never going to question our guys’ effort. They brought it, and I think they really learned something there in the first half.
“I think we did some learning. Hopefully we did some growing. I’m really proud of the way our guys finished the game though, because it could have finished a different way.”
After the Hornets fell behind 21-0 after mishandling the second half kickoff for a fumble, the Cowboys turned that miscue into Johnny Sims’ 7-yard TD run.
Albany turned the ball over on downs on its first drive of the second half and punted on two others.
Sumner’s Adrian Gatlin intercepted Jae Jae Doherty on Albany’s first drive of the fourth quarter, but the Hornets' fortunes changed when Casey Thompson scooped up a punt that went behind the line of scrimmage and lost a yard and returned it to the Cowboys' 19-yard line.
“I’m actually not even on punt return team,” Thompson said. “I wanted to make something happen. I had to get a big play. I wanted to try to block it actually. Nothing was up the middle on the block, so I saw it was a bad punt. I was hoping it would land in-bounds because nobody went near it. They all over-ran it.”
A personal foul against the Cowboys gave the Hornets the ball at the Sumner 7, where Justin Parrish bulled his way in for a 5-yard touchdown two plays later to cut the lead 21-7 with 5:52 to play.
Albany got more life after Sumner’s Laquantion Bickham lost a fumble at the Hornet 25.
That enabled Albany to go to the air with Doherty finding Tyler Bates 16 yards and Nick Pregeant connected with Doherty for 30 on consecutive plays to get the ball to the Cowboy 25.
Parrish later had a 10-yard run to set up Rhett Wolfe’s 5-yard TD run. The PAT was blocked, and the Hornets trailed 21-13 with 1:09 to play.
The Hornets (5-2, 0-2) went with a short kick, and the Cowboys were able to run out the clock after Albany used two timeouts in the third quarter.
Janis also said both of the Hornets’ kickoffs after their scores were intended to be on-side kicks.
“I wanted the on-side kick to our sideline,” Janis said. “Orlando (Pineda) is a left-footed kicker. It’s just a hard kick to push over here, so we went with Pierce (Ziebarth) and he hasn’t had a ton of work on it. That’s my fault for not spending enough time developing it.”
The first half was all Sumner. They forced a Hornets punt to open the game and went on a 10-play scoring drive, capped by Johnny Sims’ 5-yard TD run on fourth down.
Sumner picked up five first downs on the drive, with Davonte Moore busting a 25-yard run to get the Cowboys to the Hornets' 21.
“It does exactly what it’s supposed to do – it wears the defense down, and at the last second, just punch it in,” Albany defensive back Dae Dae Doherty said of the drive.
The Cowboys stopped Albany’s Wolfe after a two-yard gain on fourth-and-3 from the Sumner 39 to turn the ball over on downs and set up the Cowboys' next score.
After a holding call, Moore, who had 21 carries for 170 yards, broke free on a 57-yard scamper over the right side to get to Albany's 16.
Albany held Sumner in check before the Hornets were flagged for pass interference in the end zone on fourth down, setting up Bickham’s quarterback keeper from a yard out for a 14-0 Sumner lead.
“They do a really good job of motioning and shifting, trying to put us in a bad position,” Janis said of Sumner. “Hat’s off to them. I don’t think that was an indicator of our guys. I think that was just an indicator of them. Their offensive line really exploded off the ball, and their backs really fired out.”
The teams traded punts before Albany put together its best drive of the first half. Justin Parrish carried three times for 29 yards before Wolfe lost a fumble at the Sumner 22.
“In the first half, I really wasn’t hitting the hole like I was supposed to be, and I was trying to bounce it out and make a big play, but Sumner wasn’t allowing that, so I just had to take the yards that I could take,” Parrish said. “The line blocked the assignments they were supposed to and the hole was there.”
Parrish credited Sumner’s preparation in holding the Hornets to 53 yards of offense and four first downs in the first half.
“They studied really good because they were calling out our plays as we were doing them,” Parrish said after finishing with 65 yards on 20 carries. “The coach shows us every defense in the book, and we’ve just got to learn our assignments and be able to perform correctly in the game when stuff gets tough.”
Janis said there’s still plenty of football left despite the team’s 0-2 district start.
“The motto going forward is going to be ‘Finish.’ How are we going to finish this season? You still have playoffs on the horizon, and we still need to win another game to get there,” Janis said.
SUMNER 21, ALBANY 13
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sumner 7 7 7 0 -- 21
Albany 0 0 0 13 --13
SUM – Johnny Sims 5 run (Kevin Bryant kick)
SUM – Laquantion Bickham 1 run (Bryant kick)
SUM – Sims 7 run (Bryant kick)
ALB – Justin Parrish 5 run (Orlanda Pineda kick)
ALB – Rhett Wolfe 7 run (kick blocked)
12 First downs 10
46-220 Rushes-yards 39-148
78 Passing yards 46
6-8-0 C-A-I 2-6-1
3-3 Fumbles-lost 3-2
4-26.25 Punts-avg. 4-22.25
9-71 Penalties-yards 6-45.5