Churchill tops Walter Johnson in defensive struggle

By Joe Sabet
The Gazette
Thursday, September 16, 2010; 11:57 PM

Churchill took advantage of a Walter Johnson fumble midway through the second quarter, turning it into the only touchdown in a 7-0 Bulldogs victory Thursday in Bethesda.

"We opened up with a tough schedule; we've got a young team, they're maturing at the right time, and we expect good things out of them," said Churchill Coach Joe Allen.

Despite the game being played on an artificial surface, sloppy conditions led to a number of fumbles on both sides. Both defenses dominated but Churchill (1-2 overall, 1-1 Montgomery 4A West Division) made the key play that led to its first points of the season.

Walter Johnson (1-2, 0-2) made its best play on the first snap from scrimmage, when quarterback Cole Ahnell scampered 24 yards on a scramble. It was largely a struggle to move the ball after that.

It was not easy for the Bulldogs, either. On a fourth down, quarterback Lansana Keita ¿ making his first start of the season ¿ was stripped by linebacker Andrew Pitsenberger while fighting for yardage after converting the first down.

On Churchill's next drive, an early snap hit a back in motion, and again the fumble was recovered by WJ. But it was a fumble deep in its own territory that spelled the end for the Wildcats.

As Ahnell dropped back to pass, Sam Edens burst through the line and sacked him, jarring the ball loose and recovering the fumble.

Three plays later, senior Marcus Brown found a gaping hole on the right side, and 22 yards later the found the end zone for Churchill's only points of 2010.

"Took a while during the season, but we're glad we got one in," Brown said.

Edens was not content with just one forced fumble-recovery double whammy. On the Wildcats' very next play from scrimmage, a swing pass to Ryan Davis, Edens again made the tackle, forced the fumble and made the recovery.

Despite being unable to cash in any points on that turnover, it represented the stark contrast in Churchill's defensive play from its first two games.

"We stepped it up as a group and came out with a lot more energy; it was a totally different vibe this game," said Edens.

Despite the offense's struggles, the Wildcat defense did its part to keep WJ in the game. When Churchill marched to the 1-yard line late in the third quarter, the snap went over Keita's head and William Alberto recovered for the Wildcats.

Later in the fourth, a muffed punt gave the Bulldogs possession at the Walter Johnson 11-yard line, but again the Wildcat defense kept Churchill off the board. Afif Bandak's 27-yard field goal attempt went wide left, one of his three missed field goals on the night. The others were 40- and 45-yard attempts.

The Wildcats crossed midfield on only one drive in the second half, and it ended in another turnover. An offense that averaged 27 points in its first two games was also hindered by nine penalties.

"The fact that we weren't able to sustain drives and didn't get up on them early, it was very disappointing," Ahnell said. "We just have to get back to the basics and do what we do best."

This story is from The Gazette group of community newspapers published by Post-Newsweek Media, a unit of The Washington Post Co.

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