Receiver Cody Petro, left, looks for room to run following a handoff from quarterback Ryan Jordan, right, in the team’s game against DeKalb County Friday. Petro had more than 100 all-purpose yards. (Joel Franklin photos)
SMITHVILLE - It was the same story, different verse for Cannon County as it opened District 8-AA play at rival DeKalb County Friday.
The Lions coughed up four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles) and showed little second-half resistance as the Tigers demoralized Cannon County 56-6 in front of a standing-room only crowd in Smithville.
Not only was Cannon County guilty of excessive turnovers for the second straight week, but it also was blameworthy of six 15-yard personal foul penalties, one of which wiped a brilliant defensive score from Justin Weaver off of the board.
By the time the dust had settled DeKalb County had manhandled the Lions on the way to the one-sided win that should not have been as bad as the score would indicate.
"The better team won tonight, but we sure helped," Cannon County Head Coach Joel Schrenk said. "We had so many stupid penalties. You can't give a good football team opportunity after opportunity after opportunity, and we did. That's stupidity on our part and after that we lay down, and that's even worse."
Cannon County (0-3, 0-1) trailed 28-6 following Brandon James' 27-yard touchdown run off left tackle with 9:23 remaining in the third quarter, but the Lions proceeded to give up four touchdowns on 11 plays on DeKalb County's next four possessions as the game got out of reach.
With each touchdown scored by DeKalb County (3-0, 1-0), Cannon County's players seemed less and less interested and allowed the hosts to seemingly score at will.
"DeKalb was the better team tonight, no question, but we made it pretty easy for them at times," said Weaver, one of three seniors on the Lions' roster, said. "You can't give up the big plays we allowed. You can't turn the ball over and give up scoring opportunities. We just didn't put forth the type of effort necessary to get a road win in district play. I know we are better than we showed tonight. We will get back to work and get ready for the next one. It's one district game and if we get things fixed we can still make progress and have some success. We just can't give up."
It seemed as though the Lions cashed in their chips in the second half against DeKalb County.
In a matter of minutes the game literally went from respectable to out of hand as the Tigers poured it on against the younger, more inexperienced Lions.
The Lions' offense, which racked up over 300 yards despite five turnovers in last week's loss against Grace Baptist, was limited to 175 yards; however, they cost themselves four opportunities with turnovers.
"We would move the ball and have chances to score and then we make mistakes, have penalties or turn the ball over and you can't do that and expect to win against a good football team, which DeKalb County is," said junior receiver Cody Petro, who had 57 yards in receptions and more than 125 all-purpose yards with two big kickoff returns, including a 45-yarder to open the game.
"I know we have the potential to be a much better team than we showed tonight. We have seven games left and we need to commit ourselves to doing what it takes to turn our season around. That starts next week with Westmoreland."
Cannon County was competitive throughout the first 2-1/2 quarters. The Lions' defense created three turnovers with Justin Tobin hauling in an interception in the end zone, Weaver making an outstanding acrobatic pick down the sideline and later scooping up a fumble and scooting 45 yards for an apparent defensive touchdown to start the third quarter before the touchdown was wiped off due to a 15-yard penalty for blocking in the back 20 yards away from the play.
The Lions' offense, however, was not able to turn the turnovers into points when it had a chance to make a difference in the first half.
DeKalb County led 7-0 after scoring on its first possession and the hosts were on the verge of extending the lead when Tobin turned in an interception at the goal line. Cannon County was driving and had the ball at the DeKalb 42 when it fumbled the ball away.
The Tigers took full advantage and used a 10-play, 59-yard drive to increase the advantage to 14-0 when Cody Puckett scored from 1 yard out with 1:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Cannon County came back and put together a 40 yard drive that moved the ball into Tiger territory before quarterback Ryan Jordan was sacked on a third-and-2 play that forced a punt.
Weaver curtailed the Tigers' bid to increase the lead when he made a dynamic over-the-shoulder interception along the far sideline to return possession to the Lions. Cannon County once again drove the ball into DeKalb County territory before the drive stalled late in the first half.
Trailing 14-0 at that point, Cannon County was still in the game; however, the Lions' defense gave up two touchdowns in the next four minutes as the Tigers stretched the lead.
DeKalb County converted third and fourth downs of 12 yards or more to score three of its four first-half touchdowns.
"We had too many turnovers and too many penalties on long-yardage situations where you really need to get off of the field," Schrenk said. "Our defense did well to put DeKalb in those situations but then the penalties wiped away the good we had done. Too many turnovers, too many penalties and that's the game."
Weaver ignited the Lions' faithful with a 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown at the outset of the second half but it was called back due to a block in the back penalty. The Lions did score five plays later when James went off left tackle for a 27-yard touchdown to narrow the gap to 28-6. James finished with 63 yards on 18 carries to lead the Lions.
Seemingly in the game at that point, Cannon County's defense let up and DeKalb County scored at will to pull away down the stretch.
The Lions will look to pick up their first win of the season against Westmoreland at Cannon County Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.