Turnovers foil Spartans in opener

KING | Central Davidson coach Chad Tedder, defiant in defeat, cast an intense look, his jaw thrust forward.

West Stokes coach Jimmy Upchurch, on the winning side, was more relieved than anything else.

The Spartans failed to score twice from inside the 10-yard line in the third quarter and gave up a long interception return for a touchdown in a frustrating 17-14 loss to West Stokes on Friday in King to open the 2013 season.

Tedder, in his debut as Central’s head coach, watched his team push around West Stokes on the line scrimmage and his defense hold the Wildcats to six first downs until late in the third quarter, only to be foiled by a few unlucky plays.

“I think we outplayed them,” Tedder said. “I don’t think that final score reflected what the true outcome was. I think West Stokes is a good football team. But I think we’re a danged good football team, too. We’re just young and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Upchurch, for his part, had to watch as his team had just three snaps on offense in the third quarter.

It was enough to make him shake his head.

“Oh yeah,” Upchurch said. “They’re tough. I mean, I love and respect their program. Anybody that plays then, they’re going to be in for a war.”

The Spartans were trailing 10-7 when Brandon Capuano returned the second half kickoff 39 yards to the Central 49. At first the Spartans ground the ball in their double-wing formation and then switched to shotgun spread, with quarterback Chris Moore ripping off some nice runs. On third-and-inches from the 4, the Spartans tried a direct snap to fullback Thayer Bates. But the snap went awry, ricocheted off Bates and into the arms of Wildcat linebacker Grant Sims.

“We would have scored a touchdown on that play the way they (West Stokes) were flying around,” Tedder said. “We just had a bad snap.”

Moments after Derrick Davis and Warren Poore sacked West Stokes quarterback Alex Manley, the Spartans marched down the field again behind Moore. But on fourth-and-six from the 8, Moore’s pass was a little behind tailback Desmond Mabe and fell incomplete.

West Stokes, which had just 102 yards of offense to that point, marched 92 yards in 11 plays, with Manley scoring on an 11-yard keeper. That gave the Wildcats a 17-7 lead with 5:51 left.

“We finally got the ball,” Upchurch said. “We didn’t have it all in the second and third quarters.”

Moore’s 39-yard touchdown strike to Capuano cut West Stokes’ lead to 17-14 1:38 to go but the Wildcats recovered Andrew Curry’s onside kick and ran out the clock.

“We’re not going to score 40-50 points a game like we did last year,” Tedder said. “We can get three or four and we’ve got to pound people. They only scored one touchdown against our defense.”

West Stokes took the opening kickoff and kept the ball for more than seven minutes, driving from the Wildcats’ 27 to the Central red zone.

But cornerback Evan Stovall tackled Rashad Witherspoon for a five-yard loss at the 17 and the drive stalled. The Wildcats had to settle for Will Moore’s 26-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 4:42 left in the first quarter.

The Spartans were grinding out a second-quarter drive when disaster struck. On a rare pass attempt, Chris Moore overthrew a receiver and the ball was intercepted by Dalton Seat, who ran it back 82 yards for a touchdown. Will Moore’s PAT made it a 10-0 game.

Undaunted, Central came right back with a 15-play, 65-yard drive, at times befuddling the Wildcats with double handoffs out of the double wing. Mabe scored from the 1 on fourth down with 13 seconds left in the first half and Curry kicked the PAT, cutting West Stokes’ lead to 10-7.

Though there was so little time on the clock, the Spartans nearly committed a major gaffe. Ricky Kirchenbauer caught a 24-yard pass from Manley on the last play of the half. But the Spartans were called for roughing the passer, giving the Wildcats an untimed down. Central escaped further damage when Will Moore’s 39-yard field goal attempt barely cleared the line of scrimmage.

The Spartans host Wheatmore next Friday.

Notes: Tedder, the defensive coordinator in 2012, was promoted to head coach when Brad Morton retired. ... Mabe had 74 yards on 20 carries. ... Moore had 56 yards on 11 carries. ... Witherspoon rushed for 101 yards on 20 carries. ... Manley was 5-for-7 for 64 yards and had 41 yards on 12 carries.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or mike.duprez@the-dispatch.com.