AMERICAN CORNER — It all came down to one factor for Dan Mangum.
“Turnovers,” Colonel Richardson High’s head football coach said Thursday night after the Colonels defeated Nandua, Va., 30-6. “The last two weeks, we turned the ball over significantly.
“Those were two teams, I’m not saying we should’ve beat them,” Mangum added, “but it should have been different.”
The Colonels (4-3) didn’t turn the ball over once Thursday compared to the Warriors (4-4), who lost two fumbles.
What’s more, Colonel played well against Nandua’s option and spread-style offensive schemes, containing both.
Neither team had much luck offensively during a scoreless first quarter. In the second, Colonel struck first, a 5-yard Mason Lambert run, and a two-point conversion scramble by Eli Stull, making it 8-0 with just over 6 minutes left in the first half.
Stopping Nandua on the next possession, Colonel got the ball one more time before the half. Sophomore running back Cam Errickson made it a quick one, scoring on a 53-yard run on the second snap of the drive. Another successful conversion, this time a Lambert run, made the game 16-0 with 43 seconds left before intermission.
Nandua answered, when Markay Collins returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to the Colonel 19-yard line. Three plays later, Jaheim Bailey (15 carries, 67 yards) dashed in from five yards out. The two-point run failed, leaving the score 16-6 with 11 seconds to go before the half.
“They (Colonel) did a good job of swarming after the block,” Nandua head coach Tom Rotkowski said, “and I don’t think we did a very good job of picking it up, and of blocking all the way to the whistle.”
Colonel, which outgained the Warriors on the ground, 136-78, in the first half, led in time of possession by a comfortable margin, nearly 30 minutes’ worth of possession wearing down Nandua’s defense. Stull’s 3-yard run midway through the third, and a Jackie Zebron two-point conversion pass to Elijah Palmer made it 24-6.
“We had a good start defensively,” Rotkowski said. “We had some minus-tackles, and that’s what you hope for when you go against that style of offense (the double wing). But later on, we just weren’t able to stop them, and they pulled away.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Palmer scored on a 3-yard pass from Zebron in the left rear corner of the end zone.
“Obviously, I think we did a good job offensively, and the defense played solid,” Mangum said, “but, again, the key was not losing possession. Turnovers were just awful. Last week, we lost four fumbles, one in the end zone. We were going down to score and lost it. We lost another one in the red zone. And we lost by two scores.
“The week before, we fumbled the ball six times, and threw two interceptions,” Mangum added. “That’s eight turnovers. Eight. And they beat us something like 47-7. ... You just can’t do that if you want to do anything beyond the regular season.”
At 4-3 and having picked up at least 10 playoff points on the night, Mangum was hoping the team would do more than just make it into the second season again.
“We want a home playoff game,” Mangum said. “I’m hoping that we can get one. But ... only the top four in the region make it. If we do, though, then obviously that’s a first in school history. We need to keep it up though. We’ve only got two games left.”
Notes: Errickson’s 131 yards, coming on 16 touches, was a game-high. ... The Colonels host Northampton, Va., next week, for both homecoming and senior night. ... Nandua hosts Arcadia, from Oak Hall, Va., in a rematch of the teams’ Sept. 13 game. Nandua won that night, 23-20.