BRISTOL - The mood in the St. Paul football teamâ€™s locker room following Saturdayâ€™s game was somber at best.
For the second week in a row, the Falcons had come up with a loss. But what made this one, a 15-8 defeat to Woodland, so much different than the one-sided affair at Ansonia last week, was this was a game St. Paul (5-2) had every chance to win and should have.
Throughout most of the afternoon, things went in the Falconsâ€™ favor.
Control the clock. Check.
Stop the run. Check. St. Paul held the Hawks to 153 yards on the ground, 183 below their season average; and their leading rusher, Edit Krivca, was held to just 51 yards on 17 carries.
Win the turnover battle. Check. The Falcons forced three to Woodlandâ€™s one.
And while the Hawksâ€™ one turnover was key - they forced a late fumble with under two minutes remaining and then drove 43 yards to score the deciding touchdown that ultimately sealed the loss for St. Paul - it was the Falconsâ€™ overall offensive performance that proved to be costlier.
â€śWe didnâ€™t execute,â€ť quarterback Kevin Ashworth said. â€śWe made a lot of mistakes out there and it resulted from the fact we didnâ€™t have a great week of practice, so we lost the game before it even happened. We just gotta get back together and regroup, because we have a big game against Seymour coming up next week.â€ť
Specifically, St. Paul failed to execute on the two most important downs - third and fourth. The Falcons went 2-for-9 on third downs, 2-for-6 on fourth, leading the offense to turn the ball over on downs on its first four possessions.
It wasnâ€™t until midway through the fourth quarter when the Falcons were able to sustain a drive, as Ashworth broke a run down the right sideline for a 46-yard touchdown to put them ahead 8-7 with a two-point conversion.
Woodland, meanwhile, was 7-for-11 on third down after St. Paulâ€™s first possession of the afternoon.
â€ś[Woodlandâ€™s] offense was good and they executed well,â€ť Falcons head coach Jude Kelly said. â€śThey were able to get the first downs when we werenâ€™t able to get the first downs. That was the difference. On those last two drives, if weâ€™re able to get first downs, that might have been the game, whereas we didnâ€™t and couldnâ€™t stop them from getting those first downs.â€ť
And just like the Hawks couldnâ€™t get their run game going, neither could St. Paul. While the Falcons came into the matchup averaging 354.4 rushing yards per game, they were held to 100 below that, with 244.
Ashworth led the team with 84 yards on 10 carries. Damien Rabis was next with 79, while fullback Connor Bogdanski had 49 and Ryan Prendergast finished with 32.
Playing from behind with a wishbone offense is difficult. When the running game fails to be effective, especially in short yardage, it makes it even more so.
â€śThe line usually plays well, so I just think sometimes we didnâ€™t pick up the protections we had to,â€ť Bogdanski said. â€śSometimes I think we messed up and forgot our assignments, kind of like the same thing on defense. Itâ€™s based on pre-play snap and the front. We have to control what we can control and we have to limit our mistakes.â€ť
St. Paul will have three weeks left to correct those mistakes, with games against Seymour (4-2), at Wilby (0-7) and after another bye week, against Oxford (2-5), with the Wildcats looking to be the most difficult.
The Falcons know offensive performances like their last two cannot happen.
â€śWe can turn it around,â€ť Ashworth said. â€śWe have three big games left. [If we win out weâ€™re] 8-2, weâ€™re still looking at states. We might not get in at 8-2, but we still have to play hard every day because we want to beat Seymour, we want to beat Wilby and we want to beat Oxford.
â€śWe have to gain confidence with each other again. Everyone, I think, is down a little bit on each other right now. Maybe we were looking towards each other and everyone didnâ€™t get everything done, so we have to get our confidence back and when we have that confidence, weâ€™re a good team.â€ť
If anything, St. Paul will be looking to show the last two weeks were an anomaly.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @DavidGlovach