ALBANY — As the Deerfield-Windsor Knights started their season off with a win over SGA on Friday, they were willed to victory by ailing tailback Matthew Fox. The senior shrugged off a hand injury requiring 14 stitches en route to a gritty 105-yard performance in the opener.
Fox caught a 25-yard strike from Tripp Presley for a touchdown, to go along with a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in a losing effort, as the home team fell 48-7 to North Florida Christian on Friday.
“We really wanted to play as hard as we could. We knew they had a Division-1 running back, and we really wanted to stop him,” said Fox. “We came out headstrong, just wanting to put some licks on people, and that’s what we did in the first half. They started beating us in the second half with little short passes. They got in the open space, and they have some really good athletes.”
“We played hard,” head coach Allen Lowe said Friday night. “They’ve just got a lot of weapons this year. They’re a very good football team, and right now, we’re trying to rebuild. Our effort was good, but we just couldn’t last with them.”
The Eagles scored touchdowns on possessions right before and after halftime, which proved to be the difference after highly contested first two quarters.
In what was a bizarre first half from start to finish, the visitors got things started, attempting — and recovering — an onside kick on the opening kickoff. The Eagles quickly drove down the field, striking first blood with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Justin Moore to Adrian Hill.
“We started fast,” Eagles head coach Robert Craft said afterwards. “We got the kickoff like we wanted to, and went down and scored immediately. I’m proud of our guys, for going on the road, suffering the turnovers early. Everything bad that could happen to us happened in the first half. I’m proud of our guys. It’s a good sign early on for us to respond and play so well in the second half.”
The Eagles’ quarterback made all the right plays to thwart an aggressive Knights defense. Moore accounted for 249 yards in three quarters of play, 27 of which came on a shifty touchdown run late in the second quarter, which put the Eagles up for good.
“The biggest thing he did was keeping us away from negative plays,” Craft said of his quarterback. “There was a screen play we ran that got busted up, and he just made a big play. He’s a senior, so those are the things we expect from him. We think he’ll get better as we go.”
“That first drive of the second half was for the game,” Craft said. “We knew it. We talked about coming out and starting fast in the locker room, so I’m extremely proud of the way we started both halves.”
The Eagles were led by a bruising back of their own. Jonathan Vickers, a Florida State commit steadily set the tone for the offense all night. Vickers scored with just under 20 seconds left in the half to put the visitors up 20-7 before the break. Aside from that play, however, the Knights were able to keep him bottled up. Vickers finished the game with just 74 total yards.
“We thought our defense played pretty well,” Fox said,” I know the score doesn’t really indicate that, they scored on some big plays, but overall, I think we did well.”
“That’s going to happen all year,” Craft said, “so we’re going to have to throw and catch it really good out wide. He just does what he does, whether it’s running or catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s a force, and he knows that. He’s just got to play well and hold on to the football.”
The night was filled with missed opportunities for the Knights, who forced fumbles on three consecutive defensive possessions in the second quarter, yet were only able to get seven points in return. Senior kicker Harry Vildibill went 0-for-2 on the night. Matthew Fox finished the game with 70 total yards and the Knights’ only touchdown.
“Fox is a great football player,” Lowe said. “He got hit on the hip, so he wasn’t full speed in the second half. We’ve got to get him healthy; we’ve got some important games left to play.”
On the bright side for the Knights, this was a non-region game; which should mean no more than learning experience, provided the Knights take care of business in their region. Coach Lowe, however, isn’t focused on that right now.
“Right now, we’ve got to clear up whose roles are what offensively. Two weeks in, we’ve got a lot of questions to be answered. We’ve got to get everybody in the mix.”
Tonight was the Knights’ fourth straight loss to the Eagles, who gave Deerfield their only loss last season.
Deerfield fell to 1-1 on the season, while North Florida Christian moved to 2-0. The Knights travel to Macon to face Mt. DeSales next Friday.