Denmark's frustrations started on the first play from scrimmage Saturday.
As Azari Brown took the end around and raced down the opposing sideline, the senior wide receiver gave the Danes something to celebrate early, a 30-yard gallop down to Greater Atlanta Christian's 46-yard line.
But Denmark was flagged for an illegal block in the back, wiping out the long gain and setting the tone for a bleak start to the game, in which the Danes were shut out, 20-0, by GAC in the Corky Kell Classic.
Quarterback Tre Jones, a sophomore who transferred from Montini Catholic in Illinois, threw six interceptions and the Danes' offense turned the ball over eight times.
"We worked hard on all sides of the ball," Denmark head coach Mike Palmieri said. "You know, we've got young players. We're a young program and we're playing a tougher schedule than they did in the past, and no scrimmages -- but we have no excuses. It was fun to come out here and see the kids play. We're a better team now than what we were before the game, so we're proud of that."
Denmark (0-1) played without a couple of starters on offense, including North Carolina State commit Aaron McLaughlin. The Danes also missed offensive lineman Will Purdy to injury.
Palmieri said he hopes McLaughlin will return in a couple of weeks.
Denmark totaled just 99 yards on offense in the first half, but its defense and special teams kept the game within reach.
Kaden Henley downed a Daniel Fletcher punt at the 1-yard line, Harrison Halder had 2 1/2 tackles for loss, Dee Crayton had two sacks and Denmark held GAC to 217 total yards.
Safety Treston Jordan had an interception in the end zone, stalling the Spartans' drive at the goal line, and also made a pair of touchdown-saving tackles early in the game.
"He played great. He fit the scheme perfect," Palmieri said. "I'm really proud of them, because they really didn't have a lot of practice, there's a new coaching staff completely. I'm really proud of (Treston) Jordan, because he's a hard worker."
A 31-yard field goal by Branan Rountree put GAC on the board, then the Spartans made it 10-0 just before halftime when Thomas Lowman caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Deymon Flemming.
But Denmark turned the ball over six times after halftime, including on its third offensive play of the second half, when Noah Deas came up the middle on a blitz and knocked the ball out of Jones' hands.
The play spoiled any momentum stemming from the previous play, a 56-yard wide receiver pass from Casey Gunn to Brown, which brought the ball to GAC's 25-yard line. It was the longest play of the game.
Brown led all receivers with 87 yards on three receptions, while Gunn hauled in three catches for 46 yards.
Jones finished 11 of 28 for 103 yards. Zach Ogbogu was the Danes' leading rusher with 29 yards on five carries.
Jones, who already has Division I offers, was making his first varsity start.
"Just keep playing. He's a kid that's young, first varsity start, and things like that happen," Palmieri said. "We have to play the game. We're not worried about him coming out here and throwing six picks. We've got to try to get better. Right now, we're in a phase where we've got to throw the ball, we've got to run the ball. We want to win the games, no doubt, and we're going to go after it every play. I think Tre did some good things; he threw some good balls. He's a young kid and he'll get better next week from it."
Denmark's schedule doesn't get much easier next week, as the Danes are scheduled to travel to Allatoona, last year's Class 6A runner-up. Allatoona beat last year's Class 6A state champion Harrison 27-17 on Friday.
"This is what it is. This is the process," Palmieri said. "In two or three years, it's going to be tough to play us. That's where our goal is. But we want to build this season too, because we feel like we can play some good football. We'll get some guys back in a couple of weeks and we'll be a tough team to beat. I can promise you that."