Central Catholic's nine-game football winning streak came to a halt last night as the Irish absorbed a 31-7 defeat from visiting Dublin Coffman at Start.
Depending on how you saw it afterward, the game was either closer than the final score indicated or could have been much worse.
For instance, Coffman's scoring chances were muted by 61 yards in penalties, three lost fumbles and an interception.
And, when sophomore back Tony Howell entered the game late in the third quarter for the Irish (3-1) just in time to become Central's leading rusher on his first carry, Coffman's victory was still in doubt.
Howell (three carries, 41 yards) bolted 33 yards on a draw play for a first-and-goal at the Shamrock 7 with Coffman (2-1) on top 20-7. A touchdown and PAT could have put Central within six despite being dominated statistically.
But Zach Smith intercepted Irish quarterback Ben Harman in the end zone on the next play, to thwart Central's bid with 2:39 left in the third.
Coffman would then get its third TD pass of the game from quarterback Brady Quinn to receiver Tim Carpenter, a three-yarder with 9:45 left in the game.
Quinn, 17-of-28 passing for 228 yards, also found Carpenter for a 15-yard TD 32.9 seconds before halftime for a 12-7 lead, and again for 61 yards 5:49 into the third quarter.
Following early Coffman field goals of 32 and 26 yards from standout junior kicker Adam Graessle, Central got its only TD of the game when Harman found Ryne Robinson on a post pattern for a 44-yard score 7:32 before halftime.
“We avoided the big play in the first half, but we didn't handle it very well back there (in the secondary) in the second half,” Central coach Greg Dempsey said. “We were still in it there, but you have to execute. We had a mess-up on a read there, and I sent something in wrong.”
Graessle, who added another 32-yard field goal late, also boomed all seven of his kickoffs in the game into the end zone for touchbacks, forcing Central to start each time at its 20.
For a team which netted only 25 rushing yards on 34 attempts and added just 97 passing yards (Harman was 8 for 21), this poor field position was poison.
“You either have to drive the ball against these guys or cause turnovers,” Dempsey said. “We caused the turnovers, but we couldn't establish anything offensively.
“Against a good team you can't keep counting on the turnover. Eventually you've got to do something. We played probably as bad as we can play tonight.”
The lone bright spot for the Irish was a run defense that allowed just 32 yards on 21 Shamrock carries. But Central's Derek Barksdale, the City League's leading rusher with 457 yards coming in, was held to 32 yards on 12 carries before exiting with a late injury.
“We had a lot of wasted opportunities,” Coffman coach Mark Crabtree said. “Penalties were a big problem in the first half.
“We talked at halftime about making sure our fundamentals were better. Once we were able to do that, we were able to throw the ball more and be more consistent with our scoring opportunities.”
Dublin Coffman topped Central 260 to 122 yards in total offense. The Shamrocks intercepted Harman three times, the first setting up a field goal.