Don’t turn over the football.
That may have been the name of the game in Friday night’s season opener between Dutchtown and Lutcher, but both teams struggled to do so.
In the end, Lutcher pulled through, defeating Dutchtown 19-14 on the Griffins’ home turf in a game was marred by seven turnovers — including one on the opening kickoff.
“We both made our mistakes and turnovers,” Lutcher coach Tim Detillier said. “Except for those mistakes, it was a midseason, playoff-type game. Both teams left it on the field. The people got their money’s worth.”
Dutchtown senior running back Kajuan Coleman started the pattern early when he fumbled on the opening kickoff at around the 30-yard line. Lutcher couldn’t turn the miscue into points, though, missing a 23-yard field goal wide left on the first drive.
Coleman bounced back, posting 81 yards on 14 carries, including a 55-yard run in the first quarter that he capped with a 5-yard touchdown a few plays later.
“(Coleman) is a football player,” Dutchtown coach Benny Saia said. “He’s trying his hardest. He didn’t want to fumble the football. It’s just an unfortunate thing, but he gave a good second effort and we’ll clean that up and get better.”
Lutcher sophomore quarterback Jontre Kirklin led the Bulldogs with 80 yards rushing, including the eventual winner on a 30-yard run up the middle with 1:36 left. Kirklin also threw for another 83 yards and a touchdown on 10-of-17 passing.
The play of the night came early in the second half when Lutcher linebacker Ricky Ross returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown.
Detillier, who was out of breath following an enthusiastic speech to his team after the game, said he was running down the sideline screaming “scoop and score” during Ross’ touchdown return.
“That’s a 14-point play,” Detillier said. “They were probably going to score, but we scored instead. That’s a big swing in the disposition of the game — the dynamics of the game, the emotions, it changes everything.”
Dutchtown quarterback Jared Sparks fumbled the ball on the play after coming off the bench for starter Brandt Fritsche, who threw for 62 yards on 8-of-13 passing in the first half.
Sparks and Fritsche spent the rest of the game rotating under center, with Fritsche throwing for 149 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 12-for-23 passing. Sparks primarily kept the ball on the ground, recording 32 yards on six carries.
Fritsche and the Dutchtown offense did make a last-minute push, throwing a 56-yard touchdown to receiver Cornelius Washington with 1:19 to play. That was where the Griffins’ luck ran out, though; the ensuing onside kick was unfruitful.
“We probably made every mistake we could make,” Saia said. “I think they may have had something to do with that, but we had something to do with it. It’s the first game of they year, and we’re going to decide to get better or we’re going to decide to get worse. We’re not going to be the same, and everything we could do to keep them in the game, we did it.”