Bulldogs fall to 2-1

Published 11:53 pm Friday, September 18, 2015

By Matthew Hatfield


The King’s Fork Bulldogs traveled to Chesapeake to take on an Indian River Braves squad full of talented players who will soon be playing football on Saturdays. On Friday night, the Bulldogs were looking to avenge a 33-6 loss to Indian River from last year, and for stretches, appeared up for the test.

King’s Fork High School senior quarterback Ryan Kluck eyes his receiver before a pass on Friday night. The Bulldogs struggled against host Indian River High School, falling 50-21.

King’s Fork High School senior quarterback Ryan Kluck eyes his receiver before a pass on Friday night. The Bulldogs struggled against host Indian River High School, falling 50-21.

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Ultimately, too many mistakes at critical junctures cost King’s Fork, which surrendered the final 21 points in suffering their first defeat of the season, 50-21.

On the night, the Bulldogs turned it over three times, which Indian River cashed in for 22 points, plus committed 10 penalties for 116 yards.

“We had one turnover the first two games compared to eight takeaways,” remarked King’s Fork’s Joe Jones, who coached in a golf cart along the sidelines after having surgery earlier in the week for a torn meniscus. “They’re an excellent football team.”

King’s Fork struck first on a nine-yard touchdown run from Deshaun Wethington with Ryan Kluck tacking on the extra point. However, the lead would be short lived, only 32 seconds to be exact, as Indian River answered with a touchdown pass from Tyre Givers-Wilson to Virginia Tech commit Tavante Beckett.

That began a scoring spree for the Braves, who scored 22 unanswered points, capitalizing on a pair of King’s Fork turnovers in Bulldogs territory. The first came on an interception, while the second was when University of Alabama recruit Jaquan Yulee, now in his second season at Indian River after transferring from Lakeland, ripped the ball away from Wethington and recovered the fumble.

Wethington would redeem himself with a 50-yard burst, juking out a defender before getting dragged down inside the five-yard line. Three plays later, he finished the drive with a touchdown from two yards out to trim the deficit to 22-14 with 5:09 before halftime. Indian River increased their lead back up to 15 points, driving 52 yards in only 1:22.

Two remarkable catches by Terry Tubbs, gaining 48 yards off the receptions, gave the visitors a jolt. Darran Butts capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown. That brought a wild first half to a close with King’s Fork trailing the Braves 29-21.

“Our kids showed a lot of heart and guts getting down two touchdowns and coming back fighting,” Jones commented. “These kids won’t go down easy.”

The third quarter would be a defensive struggle with both teams going three-and-out on the first three series of the half, two of them belonging to King’s Fork. The Bulldogs then came up with a takeaway as defensive lineman Avery Cutler recovered a fumble, but King’s Fork would end up gaining only one yard on the next three plays and be forced to punt.

It would end up being the Bulldogs’ third turnover that cost them most.

Wethington would have the ball stripped out again by Yulee, who scooped up the fumble and returned it 22 yards the other way for a score.

“That hurt the momentum because I thought we had a shot,” Jones admitted. “They were in the ballgame and they know they were in the ballgame. We had an opportunity to fight and get within a touchdown.”

The wheels started to come off in the fourth quarter with Indian River adding two touchdowns, including on a 31-yard pass on fourth-and-8 with 3:25 left in the game that would prove to be the final margin.

Now 2-1 on the season, King’s Fork was led by Wethington’s 127 yards and two touchdowns on 29 attempts. In the second half, he managed only 19 yards.

As a team, the Bulldogs were held to 22 yards in 26 plays during the final two periods after gaining 182 yards through the first half. Meanwhile, Indian River gained 323 yards with 165 on the ground and 158 through the air.

“We’ll re-group from this, learn from this and we’ll come back next week strong,” believes Jones. “We’re at home against Western Branch, another great team, the kids will play hard and we’ll be fine.”