What may have looked like an easy win on paper for Cambridge Springs turned out to be a nightmare on Friday night at Baird Field for the Blue Devils.
A week after defeating defending Region 2 champion Youngsville 30-13 last week, the Blue Devils followed their performance up with a 22-16 Region 2 loss to then-winless Iroquois.
Not all went well in last week’s game for Cambridge Springs, as starting running back and the lone senior on the squad, Quentin Stafford, went down for the season with a torn ACL.
“It definitely was a killer not having Quentin out there tonight,” Blue Devils head coach Clint Rauscher said. “We had a little lack of leadership out there. We looked scattered and scared. They are scrambling around a little bit trying to learn on the run. We did a lot of things wrong today.”
One of the other main contributors to Iroquois’ win was the fact that it forced eight turnovers.
“We simplified our defense,” Iroquois head coach Gerry Drozdowski said. “We were trying to get the kids to be more aggressive. We were really pleased with our defensive effort.”
Cambridge Springs (2-2, 1-2 Region 2) made things interesting from the start, attempting an onside kick on the opening kickoff. Although it initially looked as if the Blue Devils recovered, Iroquois’ Alex Burgos came out of the pile with the ball.
With great starting field position at the 50, the Braves (1-3, 1-2) were in prime position to score. After taking six-plus minutes on their first drive, the Braves found themselves in a fourth-and-goal situation at the 21-yard line. The Blue Devils were able to force the turnover on downs, allowing only a 10-yard run by quarterback Dylan Carpin.
Cambridge Springs would control the ball for the rest of the first quarter, eventually turning the ball over on downs after a Devin Walker five-yard run on fourth-and-six.
Moments later, the Blue Devils looked to be in good position after causing the first turnover of the game, recovering a botched snap on their own 44-yard line. Soon after, things would take a turn for the worst for Cambridge.
The second play after recovering the fumble, Cambridge Springs put the ball on the ground via a toss from Walker to Colton Noble. In a dead sprint, Iroquois’ Brandon Roda picked up the ball and scampered 40 yards for a touchdown.
The score would remain 8-0 until halftime after the Blue Devils had two more turnovers via a Noble fumble and a Walker interception.
Things would not get any better for Cambridge Springs in the second half. After Iroquois kicked it out of bounds to start the half, Noble would once again fumble it away to Iroquois.
“We weren’t focused,” Rauscher said. “We weren’t ready to play. You can’t bury yourself in a hole and think you are going to be consistently successful.”
The hole only became deeper for the Blue Devils. Roda would again find the end zone, this time on a 35-yard end around run. Alex Williams trotted in the 2-pointer for a 16-0 lead.
The Blue Devils again would put the ball on the ground on the ensuing kickoff. Like the previous possession, Iroquois would take advantage.
This time, Williams punched it in from a yard out, but the conversion failed.
With the Braves up 22-0, the game seemed out of reach for Cambridge Springs. But the Blue Devils would not go down without a fight.
Cambridge converted on two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The first came on a one-yard run by Walker.
With under three minutes remaining, Walker would lead another touchdown drive, this time hooking up with Kristofer Silbaugh through the air for 20 yards. After the two-pointer, it was suddenly a six-point game at 22-16.
The Blue Devils’ last grasp of hope would sizzle away after they could not recover the onside kick.
Roda led the Braves’ offense with 138 rushing yards and one touchdown.
“Our offensive line did a great job giving Brandon some openings,” Drozdowski said. “We wanted to try and control the ball and we were successful doing that.
The win was the first of the season for Iroquois and couldn’t have come at a better time.
“This was really, really crucial,” Drozdowski said. “If we lost tonight we would be 0-4 and it would be tough to get the kids motivated. I’m hoping this win will get us going for the rest of the season.”