By: Joel Bryant
Last night, Husky football defeated the defending SWAC Champions Green Hope 24 to 10, for their first win of the season. After months of speculation about how good Heritage can be, we may have a good idea of what the answer is. There was a lot to take in, so here are 24 of my biggest takeaways from Dewayne Washington’s first win, broken down into individual player and overall team observations.
- First, the player that had a lot to do with getting to 24: Parker George. In his first game, George was perfect, hitting all 3 extra points and his only field goal attempt.
- Overall, the Huskies’ Special Teams is very good. Drake Thomas blocked a field goal (more on him later). The punt coverage was great, thanks to the efforts of Carter Minter. The return game hasn’t missed a beat from last season either. Malcolm Lewis started the game with a fantastic 75 yard return. Also worth noting was Green Hope’s refusal to punt in Jalen Pittman’s direction. They did their homework.
- Quarterback Gunnar Holmberg made the most out of his first varsity start. The sophomore threw for three touchdowns in the first half and 179 yards. He also used his running ability to convert on a couple of 3rd downs. It’s easy to see why so many people are excited about him.
- The Holmberg to Gemmell connection is very good. They came up big in some very tough spots. It goes to show how great relationships between players can make an impact on game day.
- Thayer Thomas was incredible last night. The junior was on the receiving end of that miraculous touchdown on 4th and 27 on the opening possession. His ability to get open and his shifty running style helped the offense thrive in the first half.
- Drake Thomas, the younger brother of Thayer, was a Green Hope wrecking ball. His presence was felt both on special teams and defense, as he racked up 6 tackles and a blocked kick. He also had two strong rushes on the Green Hope QB, with one of them resulting in an intentional grounding. Also: freshman.
- Senior linebacker Cam Wells was also a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball. He ended up tallying 9 tackles, including the Huskies’ only sack of the game.
- Brandon Felton is another senior who had a big impact. His touchdown grab was probably the best catch all night, although you may not have been able to tell from a distance. Take another look here, start the video at 5:30. Brandon also came up big on a fake punt, taking the short snap and bouncing it outside to pick up the first.
- Last night was a big night for the Blackmond brothers. David, a sophomore, had 4 tackles and a game-clinching interception towards the end of the game while his older brother Daniel finished with 3 tackles and generated good pressure on the Green Hope QB all night.
- I can’t find a video, but Kellan Werness had a great tackle on a Green Hope receiver. He got a hold of him and ripped him to the ground. It was great.
- On the defensive line, Jamal Bethune played outstanding. He finished with 5 tackles and played a major role in shutting down the Falcon’s running game.
- Malcolm Lewis had a great game. Outside of taking the opening kick back 75 yards, the senior came up with 5 big tackles on defense, two of which saved touchdowns.
- Get to know Jamicah Hopkins. The new guy on the block, known simply as “Maryland” or “The Transfer”, is already making his presence felt in the world of Husky Athletics. Jamicah, who looks about 6’5″, caught a 16 yard touchdown from Holmberg to make it a 3 possession game in the second quarter. I can’t wait to see how he progresses this season.
- Freshman Drake Thomas certainly got attention for how he performed last night, but many people are probably not aware of another freshman who got to start last night. The center position was occupied by Nick Fields, a true freshman. From what I saw, he was probably one of the most consistent players on the whole offensive line. He had a strong push and barely got moved in pass protection. Keep an eye on #71 this season.
- Haki Bradley got the start at running back and gave a solid performance. He didn’t have much room to run on about half of his carries, but whenever he had an opening, he took advantage.
- Running back Isaac Burton stepped up in the fourth quarter, using his quickness to escape the defense and run out the clock. Isaac also had a good game defensively, collecting 4 tackles.
- You may have noticed every offensive observation ended with “in the first half”. That’s because the offense didn’t really do anything in the second half. This was most likely a result of many things, including Green Hope’s defense catching on to what the Huskies were doing and players getting progressively tired as the game went on. At this point, it’s not anything worth worrying about, as this was only the first game of the season.
- The offense didn’t turn the ball over once.
- Collectively, the defense was very impressive. Sure, Green Hope was able to drive down the field, but the defense managed to step up every time, with the exception of a touchdown and a field goal. The Falcons averaged 26 points per game last season, but they could only put up 10 last night.
- It was a good debut for the reworked coaching staff. I thought Coach Washington did a great job in his first ever game as a head coach. Usually, you’ll see a lot of mistakes from rookie coaches, but that wasn’t really the case here.
- Coach Johnson did a good job calling the plays. He mustered up a solid balance between the rushing and passing games. The play calling was especially sharp on the Huskies’ final drive, with Johnson keeping Green Hope on their toes with an assortment of different runs. I’m interested to see what else he has up his sleeve for this season.
- For a such a young team, I was expecting to see numerous silly mistakes, but fortunately they were infrequent. The offense was hit with a couple of delay of game and procedure penalties, but outside of that, the minor errors were kept to a minimum.
- While the minor mistakes were mostly limited, there were a couple of alarming aspects to the win. Heritage was hit with a sideline warning and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties followed. It was described as “undisciplined” by some, but I’d say it was just a young team enjoying their first win. It would be one thing for that stuff to happen in the 10th game of the season, but for now, let’s ease off a bit.
- One last thing: Green Hope making a couple of mistakes doesn’t mean Heritage was lucky to win. For anyone who paid attention, most of those mistakes were forced by stout play from the Huskies. I think we know who the better team is.