By Patricia Duffy
For the Forsyth County News
ATLANTA – Denmark High School’s blowout loss to Marist on Friday wasn’t an upset, but it was also Danes’ own mistakes, not just a disadvantage in talent and experience, that kept them from hanging with the region powerhouse.
“We weren’t ready for that … any little mistake was magnified,” Denmark head coach Terry Crowder told his team after the Danes’ (4-4, 1-3 Region 7-4A) 57-7 loss to the War Eagles (7-1,4-0).
Both teams went three and out on their first drive before Marist’s dual-threat junior quarterback Connor Cigelske ran through the holes in Denmark’s defense, ultimately putting the War Eagles on the board with a 1-yard rushing score.
Looking to gain momentum, the Danes started their second drive on their own 20-yard line. Marist gave away yardage on a false start penalty that moved the Danes to their own 25 before Denmark committed three false starts and quarterback Ben Whitlock was sacked, in order, forcing the team to punt.
The War Eagles gave the Danes another chance to tie it up 7-7 when they fumbled on the ensuing punt return and Denmark recovered. Whitlock went to the air and to his favorite receiver, junior Ze’Vian Capers, but with no luck.
“It was just a bad game all around,” Whitlock said. “I put a little bit of the blame on me. I didn’t play my best game. We’ll get back, get better and come back to work on Monday.”
After two drives worth of chances for Denmark, Marist handily took control of the ball game, scoring on its next drive with another short-yard rush and taking the air out of the Danes in the process.
Over its next five touchdowns, the War Eagles’ offense only saw the field for five plays, with Marist’s defense accounting for two of the scores–both interceptions on the same sideline pass play from Denmark.
At one point, Marist scored four times in the span of 1:40 in the second quarter.
Late in the second, with the War Eagles up by 50, Whitlock gave Danes fans something to celebrate; the junior connected with Capers on a monster 71-yard pass play before hitting the receiver once more on the next play, this time in the corner of the end zone.
The team took the score and some positive momentum going into halftime down 50-7.
It never felt like a comeback was on the horizon, but the second half did see Danes running back Devin duCille shine against a combination of Marist’s first and second team defense.
After being held to just 32 yards on eight carries in the first half, duCille racked up 107 yards over nine plays in the second half.
“I felt like [duCille] ran the ball really well,” Whitlock said of his teammate. “That’s something we haven’t been doing the last couple of weeks.”
Whitlock finished the night 14-of-23 for 176 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Capers was on the receiving end of seven of those passes, racking up 139 receiving yards.
Crowder’s message to his squad after the loss wasn’t negative, but instead mainly rooted in the fact that the young team hadn’t faced many challenges like Marist before.
“Don’t get your head down,” Crowder told his team. “Just keep pocketing the memories.”
Despite dropping to 1-3 in Region 7-AAAA, the Danes still have an outside shot at the playoffs if they beat White County and West Hall loses out.
White County beat West Hall 48-34 on Friday evening, setting up the Warriors versus Danes showdown for next week.