Helen Cox coach Willie Brooks described the 2014 season as one of the most “devastating of my career.”
“I wouldn’t wish that on any program in America,” Brooks said.
The Cougars lost 11 starters to injury during the season, and their only win came on a forfeit by the now-defunct Miller-McCoy Academy.
After Friday’s opener, it seems last year’s demons may be behind the Cougars.
Other than a few cramps, Cox made its way out of Friday’s game against Riverdale injury-free and rode a strong second half to a 24-10 victory at Joe Yenni Stadium.
“It’s just good for our guys to get off to a good start like this,” Brooks said. “I know this win means a lot to all of us.”
After a few mistakes in the red zone kept Helen Cox from scoring a touchdown in the first half, the Cougars offense — led by new offensive coordinator and former Riverdale coach Brett Bonnaffons — finally got things going in the third quarter.
A botched snap on an attempted punt gave Cox the ball inside the Riverdale 10-yard line, and three plays later Cox running back Jormaine Coleman scampered around the right side of the Riverdale defense for a 4-yard touchdown.
On the next Cox drive, it only took two plays before Cox quarterback Tavis Hart connected with receiver Ea’Mon Davis for a 52-yard touchdown that made it 17-3.
Hart completed 10 of his 19 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown, while Davis had three catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s just a blessing to come out and get a win like this with my guys,” Hart said. “We wanted this one really bad.”
Cougars receiver Jamy’es Davis tacked on a 19-yard run in the fourth quarter that increased the Cox lead to 24-3 with 10 minutes left.
“We have some young guys, and I think they finally started getting comfortable in that second half and made some plays,” Brooks said.
Both teams were able to get a few lengthy drives going in the first half but only combined to score six points after myriad mistakes by both squads.
Riverdale stalled several of its drives — and powered a few Helen Cox drives — by continuously shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. The Rebels drew 11 penalties for 75 yards in the first half alone and stalled out on three different drives due to infractions on crucial downs.
Cox took advantage of back-to-back offside penalties on fourth down by the Rebels defense and converted a fourth-and-5 that placed the Cougars on the Riverdale 1-yard line. But two plays later, an attempted toss by Hart to Coleman was fumbled and recovered by Rebels linebacker William Bee.
The only points of the half came on a 33-yard field goal from Garadi and a 38-yard field goal by Cox kicker Dwight Dorsey.
“The penalties just kept coming back to hurt us,” first-year Riverdale coach Nick Brumfield said of his team, which committed 20 penalties. “We had to go with a few guys on both ends, and I think it just started to wear on us after a while. But we’ve got ot play better, no doubt about that.”