MSD varsity football team falls far short of Western High School in Kickoff Classic

Running+towards+the+endzone%2C+Western+receiver+Daniel+Jean+%287%29+breaks+away+from+the+Eagles+defense.+Jean+had+multiple+touchdowns+in+the+game%2C+contributing+towards+the+Eagles+55-13+loss.

Kate Becker

Running towards the endzone, Western receiver Daniel Jean (7) breaks away from the Eagles’ defense. Jean had multiple touchdowns in the game, contributing towards the Eagles’ 55-13 loss.

Reece Gary, Senior Sports Editor

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, fans gathered at Cumber Stadium as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School varsity football team competed in their first match of the season against Western High School. The game, nicknamed the “Kickoff Classic,” was an exhibition preseason match, that of which the Eagles were hoping to use to strengthen and build upon their skills.

With official practices beginning on Aug. 1, the Eagles had over two weeks of full-time preparation and chemistry building before their first game. Despite losing several key players from the 2022 senior class, the Eagles were looking to return for a bright and hopeful season.

Ending last season with a 6-3 record, the Eagles sought to continue their streak of winning records, ultimately improving upon an already playoff-caliber program. Despite their regular season success, the Eagles’ 2022 season ended harshly in a 43-7 loss against their Kickoff Classic opponent.

Seeking revenge, the Eagles, led by quarterback Hunter Rose (11), entered their first game prepared and excited. As 6 p.m. struck, the Eagles entered the Cumber Stadium field through their spectacular inflatable eagle and lined up for kickoff.

With both teams locked in on defense, the Eagles and WIldcats’ offenses were unable to score for most of the first quarter’s duration. As possession continuously went back-and-forth, both teams sought to jump on an early lead.

Eventually, with 1:20 left in the quarter, running back Jackson Norkunas (1) ran into the endzone for a touchdown. With the extra point completed, the Eagles took initiative on the scoreboard, leading 7-0 as the first quarter neared conclusion.

However, as the first quarter ticked down to its last second, the Wildcats responded to the Eagles’ early success with a touchdown of their own. Heading into the second quarter, the Kickoff Classic was looking to be competitive as the score was tied at 7.

At the start of the second quarter, the Wildcats began to gain strong momentum that would carry with them throughout the game. With an effective kickoff, followed by two sacks, the Wildcats were able to quickly get possession of the ball back from the Eagles.

An exciting catch-and-run for over 20 yards by Wildcats receiver Daniel Jean (7) led to a touchdown for the Eagles opposition. Soon after, the Wildcats gained back possession and scored again.

With the Eagles’ competitiveness slowly fading, the Wildcats were able to pull off another receiving touchdown, leaving the Eagles down 26-7 at halftime.

Although seeming prepared at the game’s start, the Eagles began to realize that they would have to put in lots of work to not only win the game but also move forward into the upcoming season.

“We have some things to work on, but I think we’re good,” safety Lenny Cipola (6) said. “We just need to get to work and practice harder.”

The third quarter began similarly to the first, with lots of back-and-forth possessions that left both teams scoreless for a long period of time. Eventually, Jean ran another touchdown into the Eagles’ endzone, ultimately extending the Wildcats’ lead.

Nonetheless, the Eagles looked to battle back as they attempted to lessen the margin between the two teams’ scores. This led receiver Clayton Cannon (2) to have a long catch-and-run for the Eagles, bringing back the team’s momentum and spirit as they neared the opposing endzone.

“I’ve seen a little sample of what we can do, so I think we’re going to have a great season,” Cannon said. “We have the talent, but we need to be more conditioned.”

Running between defenders, Norkunas was able to score another touchdown for the Eagles, bringing the home team to 13. However, the Eagles would remain at 13 as a two-point conversion attempt was quickly spoiled by a Western sack.

From here, the Eagles lost all momentum as the WIldcats began to continuously attack on both offense, defense, and special teams.

Following the Eagles touchdown, the Wildcats returned the kickoff into the opposing endzone, sneaking past defenders to score. Demoralized, the Eagles then failed to return their receiving kickoff effectively, as the ball was unsuccessfully caught and possessed.

The Eagles fought back after the dropped kick return with another strong play from Cannon, who was able to catch a long pass along the sideline. However, the Eagles soon lost possession, leading to a punt towards the receiving Wildcats.

With momentum from a significant lead, the Wildcats returned the punt for another touchdown after nearly being tackled by the Eagles’ defenders.

The Eagles continued to show faults throughout the rest of the game, that of which led to the Wildcats continuing their dominance. After an injury that carried cornerback Ryan Ebersberger (21) off the field, the Eagles headed into the final quarter down 41-13.

The fourth quarter was no different than most of the game as the Wildcats scored two touchdowns, including another kick return. With the Eagles powerless to return any points, the final whistle blew with the Eagles losing to their Kickoff Classic opponent by a score of 55-13.

“This was just a warmup, we’ll be better,” kicker Robbie Alhadeff (8) said.

As the Eagles seek to bounce back from the tough loss heading into the regular season, MSD fans are hopeful of the outcomes of future games and the development of team skills.

The Eagles’ first regular season game is at home on Friday, Aug. 26, against McArthur High School.