NAUGATUCK– For three quarters, the Sherman High School football team stood within striking distance of the Panthers of Tug Valley High School. In the end, The Tide (0-1) were turned away and sent back to Seth with a 20-6 season opening loss.
The game marked a new era in Tide football as first year head coach J.D. Fairchild lead the squad to the field. Fairchild has a long history as an assistant coach for Sherman that dates back to the late 1980’s.
For Tug Valley, the squad is coming off a 2012 playoff berth that saw the team finish (8-3). Sherman is looking to improve on a (1-9) season that saw several freshmen and sophomores in starting roles that will surly benefit the Tide’s 2013 campaign.
In the game, Sherman struck pay dirt first with 6:40 left in the first quarter when frosh quarterback Bailey Kirk scored on a 2-yard quarterback keeper to give the maroon and gold a 6-0 advantage. The Tide missed the extra point but enjoyed the only lead they would have in the contest.
Sherman’s defense made two key red zone stops in the first half and with their 4-3 defensive scheme kept Tug Valley runners in check at the line of scrimmage early on.
The Tide moved the ball as Braden Harrah made clutch catches to keep drives alive. The athletic 6-foot-2 junior showed soft hands and the ability to fight for the ball in traffic.
Sherman dished out some hard knocks in the first half. On one defensive play with Tug Valley executing a long drive at 8:31 to go in the second period, linebacker Josh Buffington met a Panther receiver at the Sherman 21-yard line near the center of the field just after the catch. The Tidester made a crushing hit that separated the ball from the receiver and Logan Buzzard was there to scoop up the fumble for Sherman.
Tug Valley (1-0) wasn’t rolling over in their home opener. After a Sherman turnover, the Panthers drove 55 yards to punch in an 8-yard touchdown pass on a roll-out by the Panther quarterback to the strong side. Sherman thwarted the 2-point conversion attempt.
The game was knotted at 6-6 going into halftime.
The score remained knotted throughout most of the third quarter. Sherman would find the red zone in the quarter but were denied on downs. Their best opportunity to score came when the Tide partially blocked a Panther punt and Jacob Stewart scooped up a bouncing ball at mid-field and raced to the end zone for an apparent score but cheers turned to jeers as Sherman was called for roughing the kicker on the play.
Just before the end of the quarter the Panthers punched the ball in from short yardage to take a 12-6 advantage.
The Tide had one more red-zone opportunity after a Panther turnover but it was not to be on this night as Tug Valley rolled to a 20-6 victory on a muggy evening under Friday night lights.
Coach Fairchild was pleased with how physical his squad played on this night.
“Obviously, we feel we could have won this game but a couple of mental mistakes hurt us. I am proud of our guys for hitting hard and playing physical. We need to keep that mentality throughout the season.”
Sherman will host Calhoun County on Friday for their home opener. Calhoun fell to Gilmer County on Friday, 31-18. Game stats for Sherman at Tug Valley were unavailable before CVN deadline.
Score by quarters:
Sherman (0-1) …. 6 0 0 0 – 6
Tug Valley (1-0) .. 0 6 0 14 – 20
Rushing – 23 carries for 36 yards (1.6 yards per carry)
Passing – 6-for-16 for 74 yards (12.3 yards per completion), 1 INT
Total Offense – 110 yards
Penalties – 4 for 50 yards