WELLSTON—At the start of the second quarter, Alexander was driving down the field on its way to breaking the scoreless tie. 

The Spartans duo of quarterback Xander Karagosian and halfback Logan Neal had the offense moving and Wellston could not stop Alexander’s rushing attack. It looked certain that the Spartans would take the lead.

Then, Alexander was penalized for holding. A manageable second-and-medium was turned into a first-and-20. After that, the Spartans ran a play that sent them backwards. Two plays later, they turned the ball over on downs.

That drive could summarize Alexander’s season so far: as soon as the Spartans seem to get into a rhythm offensively, a penalty halts their momentum and the flow of the offense suffers as a result.

In Alexander’s 40-0 loss to Wellston on Friday, that drive was a turning point for the direction of the game. Failing to get points on that possession ruined what the Spartans (0-3, 0-3 Tri Valley Conference) had established offensively, and they never recovered from it.

Coach Earich Dean knows how much penalties have disrupted his team this season, so the discipline issues are something he plans to correct in practice. 

“We work on this every week,” Dean said. “We are young, so when the game is this fast and you have 14 and 15-year olds playing 18-year olds, it’s definitely hard. You make those little mistakes and we have to not be forced into things.”

Despite the penalty problem and the failure to get any points on the board in the first two quarters, hope was still there for Alexander at halftime, as it only trailed 6-0.

At the end of the third quarter, the Spartans trailed 27-0, and hope began to dissipate.

When the second half started, more penalties mounted and the frustration from that led to sloppier play for Alexander. This included bad snaps, offensive plays that didn’t amount to much yardage and unnecessary turnovers. Turnovers put the Golden Rockets (3-0, 3-0 TVC) into great field position and made getting into the end zone easier than it was in the first half.

Dean wanted to make sure that the Spartans understood that playing like they did in the second half is not how wins come for football teams.

“We made too many mistakes and then we committed too many penalties,” Dean said. “Against really good football teams like Wellston, you cannot get yourself into second-and-20, third-and-20, and try to pick up a first down. Those are things our young team is going to have to learn if they want to win football games.”

The Spartans now sit at 0-3 in a shortened six-game season, meaning a .500 record is the best they can hope for at this point. 

Given how young and inexperienced Alexander is, tough losses like the one on Friday are not a surprise. But after being one touchdown away from taking the lead for most of the game, it still stings for the Spartans to have the game get away from them like that.