Greyhounds get wiped out by Sheridan
For the second time in three games, Gaston was on the short end of some tough breaks, and the result was a 42-8 loss to Sheridan in non-conference football action Friday night.
The Greyhounds took a safety near the end of the second quarter and then surrendered a two-play touchdown drive right before halftime to fall into a 24-8 hole at the break. In the second half, Gaston (1-2) turned the ball over on three straight possessions and Sheridan - the No. 9 ranked 3A team in the state - took advantage with three touchdowns in an eight-minute span.
'We just kept giving them the ball back,' said Gaston head coach Mike Maraia. 'We were our own worst enemies. Against good teams you can't make mistakes like that and expect to win.'
Sheridan (3-0) dominated the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively against Gaston, but the Hounds were still in contention late in the first half when the first in a series of unlucky breaks effectively sunk their cause.
With Sheridan leading 16-8 and driving for another touchdown, Gaston's defense came up with a huge fourth down stop on the 8-yard line. After a run by Andrew Kendall pushed the ball out to the 11, Gaston quarterback Ryan Lewis dropped back to pass on second down. He was flushed out of the pocket and uncorked a wild throw just before being dragged down in the end zone. Lewis was flagged for intentional grounding on the play, giving Sheridan a safety and an 18-8 lead.
Three plays after receiving the free kick from Gaston, Jacob Williams broke free for a 38-yard touchdown run to make it 24-8 at the break. Williams would rush 21 times for 204 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Sheridan ground attack.
'They pretty much just pounded it at us,' said Maraia of the Sheridan game plan. 'They only threw the ball like three or four times.'
Gaston's defense showed some fight in the second half, stuffing Sheridan on three straight possessions. Unfortunately, the Gaston offense turned the ball right back over after each stop, twice on an interception and once on a muffed punt, that final miscue leading directly to a Brett Littlejohn 1-yard touchdown dive.
'We came out in the second half pretty strong,' said Maraia. 'If we punch it in on any of those drives it's 24-16 and we're right back in it. Instead we just kept giving them the ball back.
'Sheridan is a good team. They've got some big boys and good blocking schemes. They wore us down. After that touchdown (to make it 30-8) it was pretty much over.'
Sheridan would tack on two more scores for good measure, the first a 25-yard pass from Littlejohn to Ryan Swift and the second a 63-yard run by Williams for the final 42-8 margin of victory.
Gaston had limited success on the ground. Kendall rushed seven times for 15 yards and scored the Hounds' only touchdown, a 2-yard plunge in the first quarter. Teammate Ryan Pursley had 10 carries for 29 yards.
Lewis went 7-for-15 for 81 yards, but was intercepted twice. Senior tight end Nick Brunswick caught three balls for 53 yards.
'Sheridan shut our rushing game down, so we had to go to the air,' said Maraia. 'When we throw the ball we have to compete it at a higher percentage. Teams are putting eight or nine guys in the box against us and we're going to have to throw the ball to loosen up the defense.'
Gaston will have to prepare for a home game against Neah-Kah-Nie on Friday.
'We have to learn from this loss and get better,' said Maraia. 'We expect a good game and hopefully a Gaston 'W.'
'If we can cut out the mistakes, I still don't think there's a team in the state that can beat us. But if we keep turning the ball over like we have been - well, we might not win a game.'
Friday's non-conference affair against Neah-Kah-Nie will kick off at 7 p.m. at Gaston High School.