“We’re still trying to find our first touchdown,” said 11th-year head coach Steve DeVoursney, whose team topped crosstown rival Spalding 3-0 on the strength of a 32-yard field goal in overtime by Wilkes Hope last week. “We hope we can find one this week.”
The Bears accumulated 227 yards of total offense from scrimmage, including 185 rushing and 42 passing. Sophomore running back Justin Goddard did most of the heavy lifting, rushing an unbelievable 40 times for 131 yards.
“Penalties and turnovers killed us,” said DeVoursney. “We have to correct that.”
Penalties derailed the team’s first and third drives, while an interception ended its fourth and final drive of the first half and its first drive of the second half before their final drive in regulation ended with a 22-yard field goal attempt that was blocked.
Of course, a young Griffin squad was forced into recovery mode fairly early in the game when first-year sophomore starting quarterback Jaquez Parks injured his thumb in the first half. The team first resorted to running senior Eddrick Johnson out of the single wing as the quick fix. A series later, they inserted freshman backup Anforne’ Stroud in at quarterback.
By game’s end, Parks – who came back in to make the hold on the game-winning field goal – completed 2-of-5 passes for 22 yards without running the ball once. Stroud completed 2-of-7 for 20 yards with a pair of interceptions and added 6 rushes for 37 yards – including runs of 15 and 14 yards.
Who will lead the Bears against Upson-Lee’s 4-2 defense this week will likely come down to a game-time decision for DeVoursney and his staff.
“We still haven’t made a decision, yet,” DeVoursney on Tuesday. “They’re going to be battling it out.”
“We’ll re-evaluate Parks and see where he’s at and what he can do this week and go from there,” DeVoursney added.
Another factor that likely cut into Griffin’s production last week was the absence of senior fullback Lathaddeus Sands, the team’s leading rusher with two touchdowns in the spring game.
He has been out since before the preseason scrimmage trying to work through a knee injury.
“He practiced last week but did not feel good enough to play in the game,” said DeVoursney. "He’s going to practice again this week and we’ll see if he has gotten any better.”
Whether or not they play Sands will also likely come down to a game-time decision.
On the other side of the ball, Griffin is coming off its’ first shutout of the season.
Linebackers Eddrick Johnson, Jaylin Piercy and Nic Williams as well as linemen Ronquerris Davis and Chase Chapman led the way as Griffin limited Spalding to 59 yards of offense from scrimmage, including 47 yards on 33 rushes and 12 yards on two completions. By night’s end, Griffin also held a 16-3 edge in first downs.
They’ll face an Upson-Lee team, led by fourth-year head coach Tommy Watson, coming off a 6-3 win at home against Woodward Academy in the season opener last week.
Dedicated fans will notice the Knights have gone from a mid-line veer offense, the team has run for decades, to more of a spread offense this season.
Don’t let it fool you.
“They still run the mid-line, but it’s from the gun,” said DeVoursney. “They’re spreading you out so they can run the football. They’ve got a quarterback who can run, like they always do, and a good offensive line that comes off the ball (hard), like they always do, so it’s going to be a tougher challenge for our defense this week than it was last week.”
Fueling Upson-Lee’s thirst for a victory is the fact Griffin topped Upson-Lee 40-3 last season – Griffin’s largest margin of victory in series (which dates back to 1926) since a 72-0 victory in 1941.
Heading into the contest, special teams remains an area of concern for DeVoursney and his staff.
The team struggled on special teams in a 34-0 preseason scrimmage loss three weeks ago and again in last week’s season opener, having a punt partially blocked, a field goal blocked and a punt return fumbled.
“It’s been a big thorn in our side,” said DeVoursney. “We’re trying to correct it and trying to get better on special teams. We can’t get over the hump right now.”