Football: Panthers miss the point in 14-13 loss to Chincoteague

Only one word could describe Rappahannock County High School’s varsity football team’s 14-13 loss last Friday night at Chincoteague.

Heartbreaking.

“When you walked into the locker room,” Panthers assistant coach Justin Maffei said, “I would say that three quarters of the kids were noticeably affected by the game. Some were in tears. Some were angry. There were strong emotions there. We should have beaten this team.”

The Panthers had several scoring chances, particularly in the second half, but their mistakes or miscues ended their drives.

With eight minutes left in the game and down 14-7, Rappahannock County had the ball at the one-yard line. Senior quarterback Matt Fletcher fumbled the snap, and the Chincoteague defense pounced on the loose ball.

Sophomore tailback Matt Lombardi’s run late in the game brought the Panthers to within one point at 14-13. They went for the two-point conversion, but Chincoteague stopped Fletcher short of the goal line.

“Take away one of our three fumbles,” Maffei said, “and we win the game.”

The Ponies turned the ball over with less than a minute left in the game, but the Panthers did not have enough time to sustain a drive.

“Fundamentals,” Rappahannock County head coach Terrence Johnson said. “We do them well in practice, but when the lights come on, we forget our fundamentals.”

Johnson added that the Panthers average a penalty every four to five plays. Such mistakes kill offensive drives or allow an opponent to sustain its drive.

Lombardi had the two scores for the Panthers.

“We were the better team out there,” Johnson said. “We had more than enough chances to win the game, but we find ways to lose. We dig a hole and just keep digging it deeper and deeper.”

The Panthers (1-7) travel Friday night to Quantico High School.

Quantico (6-2) should present the Panthers a tough challenge. Primarily a running team, the Warriors have three strong backs in David Bogese (457 yards) Rashood Maxey (409 yards) and John Hinkle (357 yards). Quarterback Wesley Barnes has thrown for 357 yards and two scores this season.

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