Zumwalt zooms right by Central

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Tigers suffered a 27-14 loss at home and fell to 1-6.

Two key first-half turnovers, combined with poor tackling, equaled a third straight loss for Central's football team, as the Tigers fell to Fort Zumwalt North 27-14 on Thursday at Houck Stadium.

Fort Zumwalt (4-3) sophomore running back Matt Espey rushed for 184 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns, as the Tigers could not stop the shifty 5-foot-6 back. Nearly all of Espey's yards came after contact.

"He's a wrestler; he has a great center of gravity and good balance," Panthers coach Leroy Shumaker said. "It's hard to get him down on one hit."

The Panthers finished with 261 yards rushing on 41 carries. Senior fullback Jared Howell added 66 yards on 10 carries.

"Once again we did not tackle," Central coach Lawrence Brookins said.

Central (1-6) outgained the Panthers in the first half, and ran over 10 more plays in the first two quarters. On three separate occasions in the opening half the Tigers failed to take advantage of positive offensive drives.

The Tigers grabbed the early momentum by recovering a fumbled punt near midfield. Central got near the Panthers 20-yard line, but failed on a trick play on a fourth-and-six play.

On the Tigers' next offensive drive, Central made it to the Panthers 10 before an interception of quarterback Blake Slattery ended the drive. Trailing 7-0, the Tigers' defense held the Panthers in check and put the ball back in the offense's hands.

Central responded with a combination of runs and passes to push the ball to the Panthers 8. But the drive ended when Tigers running back Hykeem Hammonds tried to round the corner toward the end zone and fumbled.

"In that sequence we had an 11-play drive," Brookins said. "In the NFL they celebrate if you get a drive in double digits. We get down there and the tailback fumbles."

Central finished with three turnovers in the opening half but trailed just 7-0.

Fort Zumwalt North converted on one of its few passes to open the third quarter, scoring on a 43-yard pass play from Derick Sanburn to Casey Stillman, a 5-11, 213 pound tight end who was wide open in the secondary.

"I'm very disappointed," Brookins said. "We've put in too much work to continue to make these mistakes."

Central trailed 21-0 early in the fourth quarter when Slattery finally got the Tigers on the board with a 9-yard run. Slattery also hit Derien Downing late in the quarter on a 10-yard pass to narrow the final margin to 27-14.

Making his first start of the season in place of injured sophomore Garrett Stevens, Slattery finished 14-of-29 passing for 192 yards. Slattery also ran for 51 yards on nine carries.

"Credit goes to Slattery; that was his first start in a year," Brookins said. "That's what he offers is his ability to run the ball, kind of a dual threat. Garrett throws a nicer pass, but with a little work Blake will be all right."

Hammonds finished with 100 yards rushing on 21 carries. Scott Dunaway had a big play in the fourth quarter with a 55-yard reception.

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