Going into Denmark’s second region game of the year, there was good reason for the Danes to be confident. They were 4-1 and were coming off a big win over Chestatee to open up region play, with a state playoff berth being a real possibility in their minds.
Those chances may have taken a big hit against West Hall on Friday night, as three first quarter turnovers put the Danes in a hole early, and while Denmark was able to draw closer in the second half, they couldn’t fully catch up and took a 48-27 loss.
“We got ourselves back in the game, and we let it get away from us again,” Danes head coach Terry Crowder said. “It’s so hard playing over fall break. We’re going to have to learn how to do it next year, too.”
At first, it looked like the game would start well, with the defense forcing a stop on West Hall’s first possession. However, after a drive to the Spartan’s 20, quarterback Ben Whitlock fired a pass to Teddy Davenport that was tipped up in the end zone and intercepted for a touchback.
It didn’t take long for the Spartans to capitalize, with Devon Williams scoring down the sideline on a 79-yard catch-and-run from West Hall quarterback Clayton Jenkins. After a missed extra point, the Spartans took a 6-0 lead with 5:57 left in the first quarter. Just 40 seconds later, West Hall’s Jeremiah Prather jumped a route for a 30-yard pick-six to put the Danes in a 13-0 hole.
But that still wasn’t the end of the Danes’ disastrous first quarter. On Denmark’s third drive, Whitlock was intercepted for a third time, and Michael Thompson scored on a 7-yard run for West Hall just two plays later to give the Spartans a very early 20-0 advantage. Whitlock finished the game with five interceptions.
“We put a lot on his shoulders,” Crowder said. “We’ve got to do a better job coaching him so he doesn’t do that next time.”
Before the game could get fully out of hand, Ze’Vian Capers jumpstarted the Danes’ offense on their next chance with a 57-yard catch deep into Spartan territory. Whitlock recovered from a sack to throw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Davenport, cutting the West Hall lead to 20-7 and temporarily stopping the bleeding with 1:28 left in the first quarter.
While the Spartans relied on Denmark’s miscues for its first three scores, they were able to score on a 6-yard touchdown to end the first half, and Denmark was still down three scores at 27-7.
The third quarter almost started as badly as the first. The Danes misplayed the kickoff, and Whitlock then threw his fourth pick. However, the Danes caught a break when West Hall dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone and the ensuing field goal was botched.
That series of events began a momentum swing in Denmark’s favor. With 4:45 left in the third, Whitlock connected with a wide open Andrew Harvey from five yards out to cut the score to 27-14. Just before the fourth, Capers brought Denmark to within one score of the lead with a five-yard rushing touchdown.
“I just kind of saw daylight,” Capers said. “I saw the end zone so I was just going for it.”
That momentum didn’t last, though, as West Hall outscored the Danes 21-7 in the fourth quarter. The Spartans got touchdowns from Michael Thompson, Devon Williams, and a defensive score from the Corey Dupree, who picked up and ran in a Whitlock fumble with 7:20 to play.
“All of a sudden, we couldn’t stop the run game,” Crowder said. “We’ve got to get better on defense. We’ve got to tackle better. Now we’re starting to play some strong teams, and them being stronger than us showed up a little bit tonight.”
Capers scored the only Denmark touchdown of the fourth quarter, hauling in a Whitlock pass and ripping the ball away from a defender in the end zone.
Denmark’s road will only get tougher in the next two weeks. The Danes are set to face No. 1 ranked Blessed Trinity next week, followed by Marist.
“We’ve just got to go back to the fundamentals,” Capers said. “We missed a lot of tackles. Our D didn’t do so good. We’ve got to go back and look at the film, and we’ll be better next week.”