With 9:22 left on the clock, the Nelsonville-York sideline was full of energy. With 4:35 left, it was somber. And with 4:19, it was silent.
The sudden mood change came after Buckeyes quarterback Drew Carter threw back-to-back pick-sixes in Nelsonville-York’s 24-12 loss at Wellston on Friday night.
The Wellston defense outscored the Nelsonville-York offense at CH Jones Field and would’ve had more total points than the Buckeyes if not for an errant snap that resulted in a safety.
Carter struggled in the fourth quarter after losing his top receiver, Brandon Phillips, just before halftime.
“He’s our go-to guy,” head coach Rusty Richards said. “We move him around, he plays a little running back, he plays in the slot, and it definitely, play calling wise, made some changes and it’s hard to do that in the middle of a game.”
Richards was pleased with the defensive performance and was especially happy with sophomore Dakota Inman, who came in to replace Phillips in the second half with a tough defensive assignment.
“I though Dakota Inman stepped up,” Richards said. “He did a pretty good job being 5 foot 8 against a 6 foot 4 senior. I was very pleased with number seven, Dakota Inman.”
The defense did all it could to keep the Buckeyes in the game, including four stops on fourth down, and only one allowed conversion.
Nelsonville-York also stopped the Golden Rockets from scoring both of their two-point conversion attempts and both PAT attempts. An interception on one two-point attempt even kept the Buckeyes within one score after the first interception was returned for a touchdown.
“Our defense played much, much better,” Richards said. “If we would’ve played like that last week, we’d be 1-1 instead of 0-2 right now.”
Eventually, the turnovers became too much for the Buckeyes to overcome as they fell to 0-2 for the third-straight season.
It may be tough to rebound from two straight losses to open the season, but Nelsonville-York has done it before. Last season after the same starting record, the Buckeyes went on to win six of the last seven games. This season, they don’t have time to keep losing with only four games left on the schedule.
Richards’ message to his team is to keep going.
“Keep grinding,” Richards said. “Both weeks these kids fought for four quarters. We got a chance to turn the ball over down there and we ended up coming down with a safety, so at least our defense kept fighting. They never quit until the last whistle blew, so I think that’s what we’re going to hang our hat on.”
The grind will continue to be tough as the Buckeyes play Meigs, another undefeated team, next week. Richards said they will have time to make the offensive adjustments without their best player, something that hindered them Friday.
Nelsonville-York will return home and try to play that to its advantage as the search for its first win in 2020 continues.