October 7, 2017 6:23:24 PM
By DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
Kosciusko High School's football team tried to give away a much-needed district win Friday at New Hope.
The Trojans, though, tried harder.
New Hope's defense forced and recovered three fumbles and Jeremy Tate picked off a pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter, but the Trojans failed to capitalize on any of the four turnovers.
The backbreaker came with just over three minutes left when the Whippets blocked a Nick Sims punt at the 17 and scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later. Kosciusko (2-6) escaped New Hope with a 21-14 win.
"We had clean practices this week," said Kobi Kobi Chandler, sophomore end for New Hope. "Monday was a slow start, but coach motivated us to practice how we play. I thought practice went well this week, and we played hard tonight. This one hurts, but we just have to come together as a team."
The Trojans (4-4, 0-2 MHSAA Class 4A, Region 4) will lament a list of issues: two lost fumbles, an interception, a missed 27-yard field goal and two drives that died on fourth down deep in Kosciusko's half. New Hope also squandered a scoring chance right before the half when quarterback Ryan Burt was sacked inside the red zone with no timeouts remaining.
"It's hard to really say what the cause (of mistakes) is," said Kris Pickle, New Hope coach. "I don't know what causes us to throw interceptions. I don't know what causes us to fumble the ball. It's disappointing whenever we had opportunities down here to capitalize, having the ball on the 20, 25-yard line, not being able to punch it in - that's the disappointing thing.
"I think we just have to be able to trust our reads, trust our decision making at quarterback and let the ball go where it's supposed to go."
The Trojans mustered just three first downs in the second half, and starting tailback Tyran Reed rushed for just 1 yard on eight carries in the second half. Reed had 14 carries for 82 yards in the first half and scored both of New Hope's touchdowns.
When the running game was working, so was the passing game. Burt was 9 of 13 for 115 yards in the first half but started the second half 0 for 4 on the Trojans' first two drives. New Hope went three-and-out on two of its first three drives of the second half, and Reed lost a fumble on the first play of the third at Kosciusko's 35.
"We weren't staying on blocks," Pickle said of the run game. "[Kosciusko] had six guys in the box, and we had plays to be made there. They made an adjustment and went to one high safety and brought an extra guy in the box, started widening their ends and doing a bunch of things there. The thing we just did not do was sustain blocks. We were just bouncing off of guys. That's stuff we have to get fixed."
Burt started again in place of senior Kyree Fields, whose lingering ankle injury has forced Burt, a sophomore, into adverse situations where he's had handling protections and going through his reads in obvious passing situations. The inexperience showed when Burt was sacked on the Trojans' final play of the game - fourth and 15 from the Kosciusko 34 and New Hope trailing by a touchdown.
"We had the protection called right on the last play, but he didn't get the back in the right place - he was supposed to be on the right side and he put him on the left," Pickle said. "We had no one to block the extra guy off the edge. It's just something he'll learn and grow from."
Pickle said Fields played a handful of plays last week, and the plan for Kosciusko was to dress him and only play him if needed. Pickle said Fields' experience and improvisational ability is sorely missed.
"It hurts a lot because most teams put a quarterback spy on [Fields]," Tate said, "and that leaves one less person on me and the receivers. It gives us more plays to call."
Tate led New Hope with seven catches for 69 yards.
Kosciusko quarterback Jaquan Williams scored three touchdowns, including two through the air.
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