Saturday, February 24, 2018

Unintentional gifts from the Bulldogs give Laurel huge win

Strong start for Hardin, but turnovers prove costly
We were kind of rolling there, but we didn’t have any answers on defense. We couldn’t stop them." – Mike Flamm, Head Coach
Friday night, the Bulldog football team’s first possession was weak, but after their second – fueled by the running of Connor Murdock and Cody Small – they gave the faithful fans some hope, taking a 7-6 lead with 4:29 left to play in the first quarter. Then everything fell apart.
Hardin received the opening kickoff starting at their own 31, then punted from their own 28, unable to move the ball. A short punt gave Laurel the ball on the Bulldogs’ 47 and with the running of quarterback Casey Cole, it took the Locomotives eight plays to take an early 6-0 lead.
Hardin showed they had a strong ground game on the next possession, driving the ball from their own 26 once again with strong running by Connor Murdock, who finished the night with 14 carries and 110 yards. Murdock was joined by Small on the drive and Hardin took a 7- 6 lead on a five-yard run by Murdock.
It would be the last score for the Bulldogs, but the beginning of several gifts by Hardin to the Locomotives.
Hardin tried an onside kick on the kick-off, but it did not work and Laurel once again started their drive on the Bulldogs’ side of the field. 
When asked about the onside kick, Head Coach Mike Flamm said he did not call for that one and it was a surprise to him as well. Laurel took advantage of their great field position to take a 14-7 lead with 3:18 left to play in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs turned over the ball on the next three possessions with a fumble, an interception and a dropped snap from center by the punter. Each time, the Locomotives said “thanks” and put up points on the board taking a 34-7 lead halfway through the second quarter — an insurmountable lead for a three yards and a cloud-of-dust, run-oriented team like the Bulldogs.
When asked about the start of the game, Coach Flamm said, “We did all right; the second series we marched it down the field got a touchdown. We were kind of rolling there, but we didn’t have any answers on defense. We couldn’t stop them. 
“We had a lot of undisciplined stuff. Stuff I take responsibility for, like linebackers biting on the first motion they see instead of reading their linemen and seeing where they are going. Defensively, we didn’t have any answers.”
He also attributed some of the problem to the turnovers by the offense, and the special teams and the bad spots it put the defense in.
Locomotive quarterback Casey Cole was the biggest problem for the Bulldogs, as they were unable to contain him or stop his passing. 
“He is a good athlete,” Flamm said. “We tried to contain him, but they punched us in the mouth up the middle, then started catching us on the edges. Half the time, their passing game came from scrambles.”
The Bulldogs increased their passing game with Small going 7 for 17 with 57 yards. Tight end Justin Zier was the target over the middle catching three for 46 yards and Steffan Walks Over Ice had four catches for 11 yards. 
Coach Flamm said, “We have to pass more; there are so many people in the box. We tried to put in some quick hitters and some stretch plays down the field to loosen them up. Everything is on Connor. He gets pounded, so we have to diversify somehow and obviously it has bit us with the interceptions. We can do it, but we need to get better at it and we are every week. Justin Zier had a nice game catching the ball and Steffan had some nice catches stretching the field.”
On defense, the Bulldogs were led this week by Walks Over Ice and Small with 11 tackles each. Kodi Edwards followed with six and Trevin Baumann, Zier and Murdock each had five. Minrod Rides Horse had three pass deflections.
This Friday is the last game of the season for the Bulldogs and they host the Sidney Eagles. The Eagles are currently ranked No. 3 in the Eastern A and will probably be heading to the State Class A playoffs, since four teams from the Eastern A will advance this year.
Coach Flamm sums up Friday’s game saying, “They (Sidney) are physical and strong. Probably the strongest team in the conference. They are a downhill-running team with a very strong line. Their running back runs hard and the quarterback is better than he was in the past. They have a passing game that is deceptively good.
“They will throw it, because on film the deep ball has always been the one thing that has got us. When teams throw the short ones, we are now lighting some guys up. Cody and Minrod have really been laying the wood on the short ones. We just need to get better over the top.”
Evaluating the Laurel game and looking forward to the final season and home game with Sidney Coach Flamm said, “Looking back on the game, the score was terrible and you don’t feel good about it, but we can do some things different now than we could before. Going into this last game, we are going to do whatever it takes. I expect Connor Murdock to have his best game of the season and I expect the rest of them to hold up their end of it too. He will finish out his high school career with his best game.”