As the final minutes ticked off of a mistake-laden, out-of-synch rout at the hands of the Heritage Huskies, the Leesville football team dropped their heads and resorted to the last thing they seemed to know how to do: pace the sidelines.
On the end of the bench, Braxton Berrios, injured senior quarterback, sat alone, restrapping his walking boot.
The Pride found themselves outmatched on both sides of the ball in the 30-7 loss, their second in eight days and fourth in the past three seasons. The disparity in play without Berrios, if clearly noticeable in the previous week’s 34-21 loss to Panther Creek, reached an embarrassing level in Friday’s affair.
“Adversity smacked us in the face,” said Chad Smothers, head coach, bluntly. “We were not a real focused football team. We’ve got to go look at ourselves in the mirror.”
“Are we going to step up and make the decision to move on, or are we going to keep hanging around and wallowing in self-pity?”
Hampered by a mortifying cornucopia of penalties and slow play calls, the Pride managed just two first downs in the entire first half and trailed 14-0 at the break. A 28-yard touchdown catch by Nate Duell, senior, cut the score to 20-7 in the third quarter, but a 70-yard Charles Johnson return on the ensuing kickoff hammered Heritage’s nail convincingly into Leesville’s coffin.
At times, the Pride appeared irreversibly out-of-rhythm and borderline clueless on offense. Mason Pyper, junior quarterback, struggled to gain any progress through the air, and Mike Dehaney, junior running back, failed to gain much ground through Leesville’s stubborn, conservative play-calling approach. The unit’s 215 total yards by game’s end far overstated their ball control and consistency throughout most of the contest.
Meanwhile, Heritage stars Abdul Sesay and Blake Walters sliced through the Pride defense for 124 rushing yards and 206 passing yards, respectively. Despite being shut out through much of the first half, Heritage quickly fell into stride as darkness fell and eventually racked up 353 yards of total offense on the night.
Leesville returns home for games against Broughton and Sanderson the next two Fridays. With Berrios’s availability still in question, a dramatic shift in confidence is desperately needed.
“We’ve got to go to work,” said an exasperated, frustrated Smothers after the game.” We’ve got to become a better football team, minute by minute, day by day.”