Game Summaries & Headlines.
Not every picture is perfect, not every game goes as planned. The Forge opened their 2019 campaign on the road in Chesapeake on Thursday night against the Grassfield Grizzlies. It was game one of a four game road trip to start the year. When fans first looked at this year’s schedule, one of the things that jumped off the page was a bye in week 2 (next week) of the season. Many programs like that bye to come toward the end of the year so that week off gives its players a chance to heal up and prepare for the postseason. After last night’s 27-7 win over the Grizzlies, next week will not be a vacation. The Forge has plenty to work on as they look ahead to visits to Freedom and Hylton in September.
The Eagles took the opening kickoff and could not get out of their own way. The Eagles were flagged for holding on the first play of the game and then just four plays later Jaelan Black took a handoff from Madden Lowe and scampered 68 yards to the house with 9:56 showing on the clock. The only thing that stopped the Eagles on that play was more laundry that took the points off the board.
After another holding call on the next play, Lowe was sacked and faced a 2nd and 27 from his own 25. More disaster on the next play as Grassfield picked off the Lowe pass and took it in for a score with 7:58 left in the first stanza. When the Grizzlies Anthony Smith Jr drilled the point after, the home team had not only their first lead; they had their first points against Forge.
On the ensuing kickoff, Forge was called for a hold on the return and started their next drive at their own 30 yard line. The Eagles went to the ground game with Senior Jamal Thomas, Junior Jaelan Black and Senior Joshua Johnson carrying the mail. They drove down to the Grizzlies two-yard line in 9 plays and Thomas appeared to have tied the game up with 3:25 left in the quarter, only for another Eagle TD to be taken off the board with more hankies from the zebras.
Frustration was obvious and blood pressure was rising fast when Lowe took it to the air two plays later. This time finding Sophomore Desmond (“Don’t call him Dez”) Cook from seven yards out. Eagle place kicker Phillip Lovelace booted the point after and the game was tied 7-7 with 2:30 left in the first.
When Grassfield got the ball on the next possession, it met a Forge defense that was clearly tired of the Cha-Cha the Eagles were doing up and down the field and they showed their strength. The defense stood tall and pinned the home team inside their own 20, forcing a punt that ended the quarter with the game tied at 7-7.
Midway through the second, the Forge went 55 yards in a half dozen plays to go ahead for the first time on this night. The drive featured more ground and pound from Thomas to get the Eagles in position Lowe to find Senior Avery Johnson-Edmonds in the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score. Lovelace came on to kick the point after and the Forge led for good 14-7 and it would be the final tally of the first half.
After a scoreless third, the two teams went back and forth in the final frame. The home team trying to get even and the Eagles looking to put the game on ice. Midway through the quarter, Grassfield punter Anthony Smith Jr. swung his right leg into a punt that only traveled 18 yards, and the Forge had the ball inside Grizzlie territory at the 45-yard line. More Thomas and Black with the ground attack (hey that got a nice ring to it) drove the Eagles 55 yards in just 4 plays and Black found pay dirt on a 17 yard run. The Lovelace point after gave the Forge a 21-7 lead with 5:33 left in the game.
Frustration rose again on the kickoff as both teams were flagged for multiple unsportsmanlike penalties after the Eagles Jordan Savoy tossed the Grizzlie player out of bounds like a rag doll at the Wal-Mart toy department. When players were separated and the laundry retrieved, Grassfield started their drive at the Forge 45 yard line. After a Grizzlie holding penalty Swanger dropped back and threw a dart over the middle that the Eagles Elijah Sarratt stepped in front of for the interception with 4:13 left in the game and that started more than a few vehicles in the parking lot.
The Eagles drove down inside the red zone late in the quarter and were content to taking a knee to run the clock out, but the Grassfield coaching staff kept calling timeouts, trying to get the ball back and score with under a minute left. That tactic raised more than a few eyebrows on the Forge side of the stadium but to their credit, they kept running down the clock and turned it over on downs with 7 seconds left.
As fate would have it, the Grizzlies got the ball and Swanger dropped back to pass. He drilled Sarratt again right in the chest and the junior decided the best way to end this night was to run 63 yards to an end zone celebration. I know it doesn’t work but the message was sent….”DON’T POKE THE EAGLE” and the Forge had their first win of the year 27-7.
It will not be the GAME OF THE YEAR, but it was the game so far THIS year. Now the Eagles have a bye where they can work out the kinks before heading to Woodbridge to battle Freedom on September 13th @ 7pm.