PORTSMOUTH — Warhill High’s football team is better, much better than the one that opened the 2014 season by losing to Churchland by 28 points.
On Thursday, the Lions lost 24-20 at Churchland in their 2015 season opener, and they are improved enough that it will hurt to have lost a game they could’ve, and perhaps should’ve, won.
Two turnovers inside the Truckers’ 10-yard line were costly for the Lions. The second was a fumble they lost at the Truckers’ 6 on first down while leading 20-18 with 6 minutes, 44 seconds remaining.
The Truckers (1-0) made Warhill (0-1) pay quickly for the mistake, as Jamil Edwards made several nice moves three plays later to turn Corey Gause’s screen pass into a 73-yard touchdown that made it 24-20 with 5:07 to play.
Edwards, who had the key interception in the end zone on the final play of the first half to keep Warhill’s lead at two points, made the decisive tackle after scoring on the screen pass. He stopped Warhill’s Collin Bright (21 carries, 116 yards) a yard short of a first down at the Lions’ 44 with 2:58 left, and the Truckers ran out the clock from there.
Warhill led 14-12 at the end of a first half as evenly played as the score indicated, although the opponents used differing methods to move the ball. Bright and Trevon Loftin (10 carries, 76 yards) led the way as the Lions ran for 139 yards the first two quarters in their Wishbone debut, while Gause was 6-of-7 passing for 155 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
Churchland took a 6-0 lead on its first drive as Gause (9-of-14 passing, 264 yards) completed passes of 44 and 17 yards to move his team inside of the Warhill 10. However, it was kicker Jaylin Dancy who threw the touchdown pass, 9 yards to Danny Holley, after recovering nicely to grab an off-target snap on a field-goal attempt.
Loftin’s 35-yard return to the Truckers’ 44-yard line gave the Lions good field position to start their second possession. Bright quickly covered that distance on four carries, the final one for a 26-yard TD behind the blocking of Tariq Camp and Stephen Cassel . Fletcher Whalen’s first of two PATs gave Warhill a 7-6 lead late in the first quarter.
That margin ballooned to 14-6 early in the second quarter, six plays after Ross Barker recovered a Churchland fumble at the Truckers’ 23. Warhill scored that touchdown via nice play-action from QB Ryan Creecy, who hit Noah Holmes for an 18-yard score on fourth-and-17.
The Truckers again went to the air to score a TD that pulled them to within 14-12 with 1:53 remaining in the first half. Troy Mitchell turned Gause’s swing pass into a 67-yard touchdown by following his blocking down the right sideline. Gause’s 2-point pass attempt was off the mark.
Loftin’s 47-yard run and Creecy’s 12-yard completion to Alex Minter moved the Lions to the Truckers’ 10 inside the final minute of the first half. Edwards made Creecy pay for his lone mistake of the half, intercepting the ill-considered passto end the threat.
But Warhill took command in the third quarter with a 14-play, 69-yard, all-rushing touchdown drive that ate up 7:32 of the clock. Bright’s 8-yard sweep stretched the Lions’ lead to 20-12.
Edwards’ 51-yard kickoff return put the Truckers back in business. They quickly capitalized on the return — via Holley’s 8-yard run that made it 20-18 late in the third quarter — as they would take advantage of the late fumble.
“I thought the kids did a great job,” Warhill coach Thad Wheeler said. “We fought hard and had a few mistakes here and there, but overall I’m pleased with what the kids did.”
O'Brien can be reached at 757-247-4963.
CHURCHLAND 24, WARHILL 20
Warhill: 7, 7, 6, 0 -- 20
Churchland: 6, 6, 6, 6 -- 24
Churchland: Holley 8 pass from Dancy (kick failed), 3:48
Warhill: Bright 26 run (Whalen kick), 1:43
Warhill: Holmes 18 pass from Creecy (Whalen kick), 9:25
Churchland: Mitchell 67 pass from Holmes (pass failed), 1:53
Warhill: Bright 8 run (kick failed), 3:06
Churchland: Holley 3 run (pass failed), 1:28
Churchland: Edwards 73 pass from Gause (pass failed), 5:07
TEAM STATS War; Chu
First downs: 15; 8
Rushes-yards: 50-252; 17-49
Passing yards: 37; 273
Comp-Att-Int: 3-5-1; 10-14-1
Punts-avg: 3-25.7; 2-34
Fumbles-lost: 2-1; 1-1