“I wrote three things on the board before the game tonight — hold on to the ball, wrap up and execute."
FREEPORT — Turnovers were the downfall of the Freeport Bulldogs as they lost their season-opener 28-14 to the Vernon Yellowjackets on Friday night.
“We turned it over five times,” said Freeport's first-year head coach Shaun Arntz. “We’re lucky they only got four scores out of it.”
“I wrote three things on the board before the game tonight — hold on to the ball, wrap up and execute,” he added. “And we didn’t do a good job of wrapping up the first half and we did a horrible job of protecting the football.”
Freeport fumbled the ball away three times and threw two interceptions in the game.
“Vernon’s a real good football team," Arntz said. "We’ve just got to focus better on protecting the ball.”
Freeport struck first on a halfback pass from K’wan Powell to Chase Clark for a 30-yard connection and the touchdown. Tragen Appelman converted the point-after kick and Freeport led 7-0 in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Vernon marched down the field in eight plays with Chris Williams capping off the drive on a 1-yard scoring plunge. The extra-point attempt failed as Freeport clung to a 7-6 lead.
On the Bulldogs' next possession, Freeport made its first big mistake with quarterback Zack Johnson fumbling the ball away. Vernon’s Jamar Massaline made the recovery.
Freeport stopped the Jackets on fourth down, but then turned it over for the second time with Johnson throwing an interception.
At the half, Freeport led 7-6.
At the start of the third quarter, Vernon came out and marched it down the field 60 yards for the score. Williams, who finished the night with 112 yards, picked up 23 yards on the drive. Jacob Fisher finished off the drive from 24 yards out. The extra-point kick was no good.
On the ensuing kickoff, Freeport’s Rajah Hooks had a big return for about 30 yards. However, the Bulldogs coughed it up on the first play from scrimmage with Vernon’s Marcell Randolph making the recovery.
Both teams were having a hard time holding on to the ball. Vernon fumbled it away with Freeport’s Jackson Ledford coming up with the recovery. However, the Freeport possession was short-lived with the quarterback losing the ball again.
This time Vernon took advantage. On the second play, Williams scored his second TD of the night on a 29-yard run. Williams also scored on the two-point conversion for a 20-7 lead.
Late in the third quarter, Freeport had the ball momentarily before Johnson was picked off for the second time.
Vernon cashed in on the turnover three plays later as Fisher ran it up the middle for a 1-yard score. The two-point conversion was good and the Jackets led 28-7.
With three minutes left in the game, Freeport put together one last scoring drive. Hooks connected with Cameron Hardee for a 42-yard catch-and-run, taking the ball to the 1-yard line. Seconds later, Hooks scored on a run around the right end. Appelman kicked the PAT for a 28-14 finish.
For the game, Freeport had 281 yards total offense while Vernon had 256, with 212 coming on the ground.
Top ’Dog was Powell with 103 yards on 21 carries. Johnson completed 5 of 18 passes for 81 yards and two interceptions. Powell and Hooks were both perfect on their one pass attempt, connecting for 30 and 42 yards, respectively.