DAYTON — Going into Thursday night’s season opener, Ansonia knew Belmont had some strong running backs it would have to stop to pick up a win.
The Tigers couldn’t slow down the Bison backs enough, though, as Ansonia lost 36-22 to Belmont to begin the 2014 varsity football season.
“Congratulations to Belmont on a good victory. I think both teams were a little ragged there at times, but we overcame that,” Ansonia coach Eugene Hoening said. “I thought for the most part our boys played hard. Belmont made some big plays that we weren’t able to overcome.”
Belmont’s backs immediately showed their abilities on the opening drive of the game. After recovering a squib kick, which coupled with a personal foul penalty on Ansonia put the ball at the Tiger 35-yard line, the Bison scored on just four plays with four consecutive carries. After the 19-yard touchdown run, Belmont ran in a two-point conversion for a 8-0 lead just 1:33 into the game.
“We knew coming in that they had some running backs who ran very hard and were fast, and they proved that against us,” Hoening said. “I thought their line blocked fairly well to make openings for their running backs.”
Ansonia didn’t help itself on its first offensive possession of the night as the Tigers fumbled their first offensive play and turned the ball over to Belmont on their own 41-yard line.
Ansonia definitely couldn’t afford turnovers as the Tigers already were at a disadvantage entering the game. After their scrimmage against Riverside just six days earlier, the Tigers decided their newly implement offense wasn’t working. So Ansonia reintroduced its old offense less than a week before the start of the regular season.
“We more or less put our old offense in from last year or from previous years so we were … it’s bad to say as a coach … we were running plays we hadn’t practiced in a year,” Hoening said. “But pretty much we thought we had to do that to have success. The boys adapted well I thought.”
After the fumble, it took Belmont just three plays to cover 41 yard and score on a 15-yard touchdown run. After adding a two-point conversion, the Bison led 16-0 less than three minutes into the game.
Ansonia moved the ball on its next drive with a 32-yard run from Jordan Newman and a backwards pass from Nick Peters to Dane Wentworth, who then connected with Max Muir for a 34-yard pass, as the big plays. But the drive stalled, with three costly penalties, at the Belmont 13.
Belmont picked up a couple first downs on its next drive but ended up having to punt, giving Ansonia great field position at its own 47 with 10:20 left in the second quarter.
However, Ansonia turned the ball over again with Belmont picking off a Tiger pass. The Bison returned the interception for a touchdown, but the score was nullified by a Belmont penalty, giving the Bison the ball at the Ansonia 34.
Ansonia’s defense came up big, though, and kept Belmont from picking up a first down.
“Our defensive coordinator, Coach (Matt) Macy, I thought he and the other coaches did a great job preparing the boys defensively for this kind of offense,” Hoening said. “I would venture to bet at most positions we were out-manned, but for most of the game we played toe-to-toe with them.”
Taking over at its own 25-yard line, Ansonia marched 75 yards in just under three minutes with Wentworth scoring on a 6-yard run to cut the deficit to 16-6.
Momentum continued to shift in Ansonia’s favor on the next drive as Belmont fumbled, and the Tigers’ Alex Beam scooped up the ball and ran 37 yards for a touchdown. With a successful two-point conversion run from Newman, Ansonia cut the Belmont lead to just 16-14.
But things quickly turned back in Belmont’s favor as the Bison scored on a 62-yard run on their next offensive play. After adding a two-point conversion, Belmont led 24-14, which was the score entering the half.
To start the second half, Ansonia moved the ball well and advanced into Belmont territory. But another interception stopped the momentum.
The turnover again came back to haunt the Tigers as Belmont scored seven plays later on a 20-yard touchdown run to go up 30-14.
Ansonia’s mistakes continued to pile up on the next drive. After failing to pick up a first down, Ansonia lined up to punt, but the snap rolled back, and the Tigers couldn’t get the kick off.
Taking over at Ansonia’s 21-yard line, Belmont took advantage of the field position and scored again to go up 36-14.
Ansonia didn’t give in, though, and scored on its next drive with Newman running the ball in from 2 yards out. After Newman added the two-point conversion, the Tigers trailed 36-22.
But it proved to be too little, too late, as Ansonia lost by that score to start the season.
“We weren’t very consistent,” Hoening said. “But there’s room for improvement.”
Ansonia picked up 192 yards of offense, including 142 on the ground. Newman led the Tigers with 117 rushing yards while Muir had 44 receiving yards on two catches.
Ansonia, which is now 0-1 on the season, begins Cross County Conference action in its next game, a Sept. 5 match up at Tri-County North.
“It’s good to get the first one under our belts,” Hoening said. “Now we can really see where we need to improve. And knock on wood, I hope we’re not too banged up.”