With a 7-0 win over the Spoto Spartans on Friday, Strawberry crest moved to 1-2 on the season and matched their win total from 2020.
“It does [mean a lot],” head coach Phillip Prior said about getting their first win. “We still have an opportunity to have the best record that this school’s had in a very long time and that’s our ultimate goal as a program and this is one of those game’s where it’s a step in the right direction.”
Despite the game originally being scheduled to be played at Spoto, the game was moved to Strawberry Crest earlier in the week.
In a game that saw a mix of offensive struggles followed by strong defensive stands when eventually backed up, Strawberry Crest was ultimately the only team to put points on the board to take the victory.
The Chargers got the ball to start the game and were immediately put into plus territory following a big return from running back/cornerback Ryan Weems across midfield. Strawberry Crest moved into the red zone and quarterback Coby Burger fired for the end zone on fourth down but the pass fell incomplete. Defensive pass interference was called on Spoto but it wouldn’t gain enough to overcome the fourth-and-13 spot for a first down. The Chargers’ field goal unit was deployed but the kick was subsequently blocked and returned to the Spartans’ 24-yard line where Spoto would take over for their first possession.
Spoto would gain just one first down before punting back to the Chargers.
Strawberry Crest would answer with another successful drive, sitting just outside of the red zone before once again facing a fourth down situation, this time with four yards to gain. Quarterback Dylan Peeples rolled out to his right and fired to the sideline for receiver Marcus Springfield but the junior wideout wasn’t able to keep his feet in bounds despite hauling in the pass and the Chargers turned the ball over on downs at the Spoto 22-yard line.
Two plays later, facing a third-and-8, Spoto was able to convert with a big completion over the middle of the field but a holding penalty brought the play back and left the Spartans with a third-and-18 to overcome. The ensuing snap was fumbled for a loss and Spoto was backed up further, standing under the shade of their own goalposts as the punt team took the field.
And on a play that would ultimately decide the game, defensive lineman Brock Craig was able to get into the backfield and block the Spoto punt before outside linebacker Steel Craig jumped on the loose football for a touchdown. Strawberry Crest converted the extra point and took a 7-0 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Throughout the second half both teams narrowly failed to turn scoring opportunities into points and despite Strawberry Crest getting down inside the red zone multiple times, even driving down to the Spoto one-yard line late, the game would end 7-0.
Some notable scoring opportunities include two passes that fell just incomplete, intended for Springfield, both coming on fourth down that would have secured a first down inside the five-yard line and a touchdown if completed and a fumbled snap inside the five-yard line late.
So sustained drives were there and chances for more points came along with them, a promising silver lining for an offense that’s still looking to hit their stride.
“It’s always been those things but it’s like a bad snap here or there, we’ve got to avoid the long yardage situations,” Prior said. “When we’ve got opportunities to score on touchdown passes, we’ve got to convert on those opportunities. But we see that sustained success, we know what that feels like, now we’ve just got to make that happen in other places.”
Running back Ryan Weems was the top performer for the Chargers, hauling in an interception in the end zone as time expired in the first half on top of a number of strong runs throughout the game.
“He ran really hard for us,” Prior said. “We were down a running back tonight so we have a rotation back there because those guys are turning right back around and playing defense. But he did a great job, he gained the hard yards for us and he ran the ball phenomenally for us tonight.”
Weems finished the game with 116 rushing yards on 18 carries, securing the win with one final first down to send the Chargers into victory formation.
Defensively Steel Craig proved the difference maker with a number of plays in addition to his special teams touchdown, also recovering a Spoto fumble and returning it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter before the score was called back on a block in the back penalty.
“Our defense is the strength of our team,” Prior said. “They came out here, they got a lot of turnovers, they gave us the ball with great field position. Now what we’ve got to work with on the offensive side of the ball is converting off of those turnovers and putting some points on the board.”
Strawberry Crest will be on the road next Friday as they face a local opponent in Armwood High School.
“There’s a lot left to be desired,” Prior said. “We know that the score shouldn’t have been that but I told the guys to enjoy it because they deserve it. We fought for the win and hopefully some of those battles and some of those things that we went through in this game, we can fix them and we’ll be better off for it.”