Arab played all last season without a single varsity football win in their new stadium. It probably won’t show up in any record books, but the home win finally came Friday night in the varsity half of the spring jamboree as the Knights edged Fairview 14-13.
Hopefully, they’ll be able to do the same at some point this fall when things really count. But, with a brand new head coach, the jamboree was an important time for players and coaches to begin the process of working together in a game atmosphere. It will certainly be different in August in numerous ways, but Friday gave everyone a better chance to see what needs to be done before then.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Mathew Turnage, who scored both touchdowns for the Knights and had 82 yards rushing in only five carries in the first half.
Ross Reynolds is back at quarterback after a season-ending injury last year and appears to be even stronger. He was also impressive making his passes under pressure and can run when needed. Reynolds was 4-of-7 passing for 40 yards while Arab rushed collectively 13 times for an even 100 yards.
The Knights had five first downs compared to the Aggies’ 9.
Fairview, as usual, came to play. The Aggies used long drives to score, converting on two fourth-down plays on the first drive of the game.
The second drive was even more impressive, as Fairview converted on fourth-and-2 and third-and-4 deep in Knight territory before scoring on fourth-and-goal.
The Aggies used a balanced running attack, led by quarterback Parker Martin, who had 45 yards on eight carries, to rack up 121 yards on 26 rushes. Martin also hit 5 of 7 passes for 33 yards to give the Aggies 154 total yards.
So, while Knight fans are understandably excited about the prospects for a much-improved season this fall, there’s still work to be done.
Coach Lee Ozmint was nothing but positive about his new team Friday, but also realistic in knowing things are not perfect.
“I’m proud of how we hung in there defensively,” he said. “We didn’t give up big plays. We’ve just got to get off the field on third down.
“I knew that last week. We have an offense with weapons all over the field and if we can get them possessions more than we got tonight, we’re going to score a lot of points.”
For now, though, he’s very pleased.
“I feel good about where we are. I’m telling you, they’re learning and they’re being coachable. They’re giving us effort and it showed out here. We all know we’ve got a long way to go but I’m so proud of these guys from where they were to where they are now,” he said.
Numbers are up for spring and that means new faces. With Colby King and Kent Tyler back out for football for their senior season, there are high expectations for the Knights on offense. “That’s three guys who can all get the football,” Ozmint said, mentioning also receiver Will Hudson.
But, they do need time to gel with Reynolds.
Ozmint has other concerns, but feels it can all be worked out.
“It’s not big things,” he said. “Early on I was afraid we wouldn’t be willing to hit, but we hit tonight. Now we’ve got to take better angles, hit and drive our feet.
“Obviously we only ran a base defense because I wanted us to be incredibly simple and I wanted our guys to fly to the football. And we did. With a few adjustments, we’ll be in better position to make those plays.
“They got in trips around the sweep and we knew that would give us trouble with numbers if they did that. We gave up a lot of 6-yard gains but if we shift the secondary over the top and win the numbers game, we’re in business.
“So, I feel good with our effort. We’ve just got to install the rest of our defense, get them confident in it, and get better at the little things.”
Since it was a jamboree, there were kicks and punts but no returns. Fairview scored on the opening drive of the game marching 65 yards in 12 plays with Tyler Simmons scoring on a 14-yard run. Simmons, who had 32 yards rushing on six carries, also booted the extra point with 5:40 left in the first quarter.
When the Knights took over at the 35, Turnage was stopped for a 3-yard loss on first down. Reynolds gained a yard on second down and on third down, Turnage broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run.
Colin Stewart, a junior, kicked the extra point to tie the game with 4:13 left in the first.
“Colin is a really good kicker. We’re going to kick some field goals this year,” said Ozmint. Gavin Currier, a sophomore, was also impressive on kickoffs, putting the ball on the 10-yard line each time.
Fairview scored on its next drive in 16 plays with Simmons scoring from a yard out on fourth down, but the extra point try was wide.
The Knights’ next drive took a bit longer than the first as it took 11 plays to get in the end zone. The drive included two pass completions from Reynolds to King for 6 and 2 yards and another to Alex Alcala for 18 yards.
“Alex has had a great, great spring,” said Ozmint.
On fourth-and-2 at Fairview’s 15, Reynolds got just enough for a first down to the Aggie 13. After an incomplete pass, Turnage went in from there to tie the game with 4:05 remaining in the varsity first half. Stewart nailed the extra point to give the Knights the win, after Fairvew responded with a three-and-out on its next drive.
“We’ve got some horses that can get the job done,” said Ozmint. “I think this is going to be a heckuva football team eventually.”
Junior varsity and freshmen players took over in the second half when a “running clock” was used until the final six minutes and for whatever reason, no score was kept officially.
Unofficially, Arab crossed the goal line with 8:24 to go in the fourth quarter. The Knights covered 54 yards in five plays as freshman QB Aidan Cox carried for 24 yards, freshman Hayden O’Reilly carried for 16 and 3 yards and after being backed up, Cox connected with Dakota NeSmith on a 21-yard touchdown play, unofficially.
Stewart then kicked the extra point to give Arab a 7-0 lead and as there were no other unofficial touchdowns, the score stood. Unofficially.