arhawks Head Coach Butch Yocum has been eagerly anticipating the re-match from the team’s season-opening 37-0 landslide loss to the Saints and hoped to take a much needed victory from the titans of the league. But the Warhawks came up short, 21-6, missing several key starters.
The Warhawks suited up short one defensive back, two wide receivers and three linebackers, which included team captain Tremond Conway, who was excused from the game. Out-manned and out-muscled, Yocum was forced to place some of his players in new positions to fill the voids left by their teammates.
“We had defensive lineman playing linebacker. Heck — even I played linebacker, and I’m not a very big guy,” said Yocum.
The Saints pummeled the Warhawks’ defense with a constant barrage of off-tackle running plays to move the chains and place themselves in position to win.
“We were able to hold them from any big gains all game,” Yocum said. “They were able to gain four yards a pop on those running plays off-tackle; and four times three is 12 — and that means they’re converting first downs.
“By the forth quarter, we were beat. They had worn us down. If we had had our linebackers, it would have been a completely different game,” Yocum added.
Without Conway’s presence at middle defensive tackle, James Jackson shifted to linebacker and clogged the Saints’ interior running attack by collecting 8.5 tackles and a recovery on one of three forced fumbles.
Coach Yocum, who normally plays free safety, chipped in with six tackles and a recovered fumble at linebacker. Yocum halted a marching Saints drive deep in their own territory by stripping a handoff, leading to the end of the half. Running back Albert Haynes filled in nicely at linebacker, collecting seven tackles, but was not able to help the lagging running game.
The Warhawks weren’t able to counter the Saints’ rushing attack and could only muster 30 yards on 13 attempts.
“We weren’t able to run the ball effectively at all. Our linemen weren’t firing out. Our running backs ran into our linemen!” exclaimed Yocum. “We didn’t get done what we needed to get done to win the game.”
The passing game didn’t fare much better for the Warhawks.
Quarterback Jason Rust was only able to complete 5 of 13 passes for 77 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Without two of their starting receivers, Yocum was unable to run the Warhawks’ three-receiver sets and was again forced to improvise by putting cornerback/running-back Darnell Strand at receiver for a portion of the game.
“We didn’t have the personnel to run our packages, so we moved Darnell out there; but he’s no receiver,” said Yocum.
But the Saints were still unable to manage more yards in the air than the Warhawks.
Saints quarterback Darryl Johnson was virtually shut down all game, with the exception of a touchdown pass late in the first half that gave the Saints a 12-6 lead.
“We were in our quarter defense, and their outside receiver ran deep and the inside ran a flag to the open area for the touchdown. We were able to make the necessary adjustments at halftime, but missing so many players put us out of position,” said Yocum.
If they are to make the playoffs, the Warhawks’ task is now very clear: win their remaining three games and beat the Raiders by five or more points April 9.
“We were successful against the Raiders last time,” said Yocum. “We ran the ball effectively, but we threw too many deep balls. Hopefully, we learned from our mistakes last time and can get the win.”
The Warhawks were narrowly defeated 14-8 earlier in the season by the second-place Wilmington Raiders (5-1). Kickoff for the Warhawks/Raiders game is April 9 at 2:30 p.m. at Rehoboth Elementary School.