This article can be found published in the Daily Local News‘ website.
ATGLEN – The Octorara Braves (0-1) were hoping to change the fortunes of recent years and start the season off with a win, but early mistakes cost them that chance as they fell to Fleetwood, 42-31, though it wasn’t without a lot of battling back.
“We played hard and we played physical and there were times when they could not stop us,” said Octorara head coach Jed King. “We have a lot of kids playing both ways and they get winded and get tired and they make mistakes.”
A couple of those mistakes came early on in the game during the first two drives by Fleetwood.
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The Tigers were able to get down the field in six plays to finish with a 29-yard touchdown reception by junior Sampson Lerch and another drive in six which resulted in a two-yard touchdown by senior Tyler Emge.
“We shouldn’t have lost at all,” King said. “We gave up two touchdowns right at the beginning of the game that killed us. You make mistakes, but it’s about how you rebound.”
And his team did just that as they battled back from a 20-9 deficit in the third quarter to get within a field goal.
Though the Braves were never able to take the lead in the game and were trailing by 18 roughly halfway in the fourth quarter, they never gave up.
Led by seniors Alex Gooden and Corey Cooper, Octorara continued to chip away at the score. Cooper, with some big plays, rushed for 100 yards in the second half, including a one-yard touchdown with 3:43 left in the game to get within 10.
“Cooper and Gooden are two really good runners and great kids,” King said. “They love this game and love their teammates. I have 10 seniors that play both ways a lot and out of those 10, they take it on themselves to teach these younger guys how they should react to situations. It showed up here tonight.”
Gooden and Cooper did it once again on their final drive of the game, down 42-25. Gooden launched a pass to senior Nathan Reynolds for 58 yards, capped off by a two-yard run into the end zone by Cooper with 38.9 seconds remaining.
“I’m real proud of the kids,” King said. “They scored a touchdown with 30 seconds left. They don’t quit when they’re down two or three scores. They keep going. I can’t ask for more. If they’re going to keep working this hard, it’ll pay off.”
Despite the loss, no one on Octorara’s team had their heads down. The coaching staff was proud of the no quit mentality and King knows it’s something which can help his team moving forward this season.
“They’re not down,” King said. “They’re excited for next week. I’m really happy about the leadership from my seniors. They’re keeping the mental fight after this first loss. We have a lot of season left and we can reach our goals.”