DENHAM SPRINGS – Denham Springs football coach Bill Conides facetiously tried to find a silver lining on a cloudy evening.
In the wake of his team’s 17-7 setback to Dutchtown in Thursday’s home jamboree, Conides offered the following.
“The freshmen (7-0 win) looked good. The JV (6-3 win) looked good, that’s a plus,” Conides said of his two winning units prior to the varsity contest. “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
For a coach and team trying to atone for a less-than stellar scrimmage effort against Division I power Catholic High, and with next week’s home opener against Hahnville looming, the Yellow Jackets’ jamboree performance was from what Conides was expecting.
“I’m kind of befuddled at this moment,” he said. “I thought we had fixed all of our mistakes last week, had a really good game plan. I don’t remember us playing that badly, collectively before.”
Denham Springs had a pair of first-half possessions at Dutchtown’s 20 and 30-yard line that resulted in zero points.
“You can’t get start on their side of the 50 and not put some points up,” Denham Springs quarterback Luke Lunsford said. “That’s unacceptable and it’s something we’re going to have to fix. We work on red zone every day in practice. We should be able to execute efficiently down there.”
The Griffins, who averaged 10.2 yards per play, were more efficient with the times they had the ball, scoring on their first three series in expanding a 10-0 halftime lead to 17-0 when Dajan Watkins went 80 yards on the first play of the second 12-minute half.
It was the second long-distance scoring play for Dutchtown which took a 10-0 lead on Dylan Sampson’s 63-yard run – one that included breaking a pair of tackles – for the game’s first touchdown at the 3:05 mark.
“Our tackling was poor, very poor, especially on the perimeter,” Conides said. “I thought in between the tackles, I think we did a really good job. Our tackling in space was poor.”
Denham Springs surrendered 174 total yards – 152 on the ground – with Sampson leading Dutchtown with 11 carries for 84 yards.
Denham Springs’ first series of the second half resulted in its second fumble and the Yellow Jackets later came up with their second turnover with three minutes to play on Hayden Horne’s 39-yard fumble return out of the end zone.
That led to the Yellow Jackets lone scoring drive – a 61-yard march – that Lunsford kept alive with a 3-yard sneak on fourth down and later completed a 27-yard pass to Preston Holwager.
Three plays later, on the game’s final play, Lunsford scrambled 14 yards for a score on third-and-15 and Cameron Beall added the extra point.
“We made a stop, had a good two-minute drive and that was about it,” Conides said. “For 17 minutes, we gave up 17 points. For 22 minutes we didn’t score any points. I don’t know.”
That drive enabled Denham Springs to finish with 199 yards on 44 plays – an average of 4.5 per play.
Lunsford was uncharacteristically short on several of his throws and wound up 6-of-21 for 104 yards. Holwager topped DSHS with two catches for 33 yards.
Jase Zachary led the Jackets with 13 carries for 54 yards.
“I’ve been feeling great physically, everything’s good,” Lunsford said. “That’s just me not focusing, not putting the ball where it needs to be. I definitely need to pick up my game for Week 1. That’s not me, the guy my teammates hold me to.”
Denham Springs’ biggest play of the first half – a 45-yard pass completion from Lunsford to Troy Golmond – got the Jackets down to Dutchtown’s 30-yard line with 45 seconds showing.
Prior to that play Denham Springs had just 43 yards of offense.
However, the drive fizzled after Zachary’s 6-yard gain and a pair of incompletions – setting the stage for the final play of the half.
Lunsford rolled to his left where he targeted Earnhart on a corner pattern, but the attempt fell incomplete as the horn sounded.
“We lack confidence as an offense right now,” Lunsford said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys and I think we’re not playing to where we’re able to play. All the guys out there have ability. We just need to put it together.”
Denham Springs registered a first down on its first series when Gavin Weidenbacher’s punt bounded off Dutchtown’s returner and Hagen Parra recovered for the Yellow Jackets at the Griffins’ 20-yard line.
A false start and holding penalty helped thwart DSHS’ drive which finished at Dutchtown’s 32-yard line following an incompletion at the 8:08 mark.
Dutchtown scored on both of its offensive series for a 10-0 halftime advantage. Cohen Parent connected on a 42-yard field goal with 5:10 remaining and Sampson, the Class 5A state runner-up in the 100-meter dash, broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and broke another near the DSHS 19, completing a 63-yard TD with 3:05 left.
“We were hoping to bounce back from a not-so-good week and have a good week going into the regular season,” Lunsford said. “It didn’t work out like that. We’re just going to have to lick our wounds and see what we did wrong and try to play our best ball in Week 1.”