Gaston offense turns the ball over five times in a shutout loss to the sixth-ranked Royals

by: CHASE ALLGOOD - Gaston wideout Dylan Clarks gets tackled by his drawstring during last Friday's football game against Portland Christian.The problem with young football teams is that they can be maddeningly inconsistent.

Take Gaston, for instance.

Two weeks ago, coming off a bye, the Greyhounds fired on all cylinders in a 66-21 beatdown of Vernonia. Last Friday, however, the Hounds were swallowed up by a torrential rain storm and by No. 6 Portland Christian, which remained undefeated atop the Northwest League standings with an emphatic 33-0 victory.

“We go back and forth between looking really good and looking really young,” Gaston head coach Reeve Woodward said. “Against Portland Christian we played young again. They’re a good team, but we were right there with them.

“If we cleaned up some of our mistakes I think we could play with them.”

The Greyhounds committed plenty of mistakes on Friday, starting with a season-high five turnovers, but the most damaging were a pair of interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, both ending potential scoring drives for Gaston (3-3, 1-1) and sparking a huge momentum swing for the visiting Royals.

“We were in scoring position both times, but instead of us getting touchdowns out of it, they got touchdowns,” Woodward said. “That’s a 28-point swing right there.”

One of the returns spanned 99 yards and the other went for more than 80, sinking Gaston into a deep hole.

With the field getting sloppier and sloppier as the game wore on, Portland Christian (7-0, 2-0) didn’t need to do anything fancy to pull away. Instead, the Greyhounds shot themselves in the foot time and time again, fumbling the ball a total of 10 times, losing three of those.

“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Woodward said. “We’re not good enough to fumble the ball two times a series and still get first downs. We just made too many mistakes and we got beat.”

Despite the lopsided score, Woodward had praise for his defense.

“We played pretty well defensively. We only gave up one legitimate touchdown,” he said. “They had one long drive where they scored and that was pretty much it.

“They had the two long interception returns and then one of their other touchdowns was late in the game when we were gambling. We blitzed and they hit it right where they needed to.”

Friday’s performance was in stark contrast to the week before, when Gaston went on the road and hung 66 points on Vernonia (4-2, 1-1).

Senior fullback Sam Wismer bludgeoned his way to 205 yards rushing and five touchdowns, while versatile junior Austin Morey scored in three different ways — an 80-yard punt return, a 50-yard reception and a short touchdown run.

Senior quarterback Levi Watkins tossed three touchdown passes, including a 40-yarder to sophomore Dylan Clark with one second left in the first half. Clark caught the pass at the 5-yard line, then fought his way through three would-be tacklers into the end zone.

“We ruled that game,” Woodward said. “We did a lot of damage on the ground and we looked pretty good.”

Woodward hopes to see more of that team as Gaston prepares for its homecoming game against Neah-Kah-Nie (2-5, 0-2). The Hounds will celebrate homecoming this week (see story on page B2) before squaring off against the Pirates on Friday at 7 p.m.

“I’m hoping the distractions of this week aren’t a problem,” Woodward said. “This team is pretty even keel — they don’t get too high or too low. I don’t think it will bother them too much, but I want to focus on the game.”

Mostly, Woodward said he wants to focus on eliminating the errors that led to Gaston’s first shutout loss since 2009.

“We’ve got to clean up the mistakes and get back to doing what we do,” he said. “We’re a good team, we’ve just got to play like it.”

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