Story and Photo by Matthew Yoder
From a line of scrimmage perspective, the teams appeared evenly matched, but the speed at which King and Queen Central played was too much for Chincoteague to catch up with in their 46-0 loss at home last Friday.
Chincoteague opened the game running the ball exclusively, with effective gains by Wes Britton but the Ponies’ drive stalled, forging a trend that carried through the evening. Strong tackling by Xavon Montgomery and Tyquan Speight led to a turnover of downs for Chincoteague.
Unlike the Ponies, the Royal Tigers came out throwing the ball to all sides of the field. Malik Holmes, a freshman starting quarterback completed passes to Deandre Hill, Cameron Graham, and Speight on King and Queen Central’s first drive. He threw screen passes to the left and right sides, allowing for the speed of his receivers to make positive yardage. Ultimately their first drive ended in a loss of downs, as Ayden Leonard and Kyle Willis held their ground on defense for the Ponies.
The Royal Tigers slow start, following a long bus ride to the island, ended here. Antonio Carter pressured Ponies quarterback Leonard on the following drive, forcing an intentional grounding penalty and pinning Chincoteague deep in punt formation.
King and Queen Central started its second drive at Chincoteague’s 47-yard line and needed only four plays to find the end zone. Kam Berry ran 22 yards to the left, giving the Royal Tigers their first score with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
Chincoteague’s second quarter possessions were a host of three-and-outs and were saved only by strong punts off the foot of Giovanni Rosanova III.
King and Queen Central, on the other hand, executed their game plan with increasing skill. They continued to throw the ball, employing their peed. Chincoteague had King and Queen Central on the ropes of their first drive of the second quarter but an untimely offsides penalty by the Ponies on a fourth-and-5 prolonged the drive for the Royal Tigers. Strong gang tackling by the Ponies forced the Royal Tigers into another fourth down situation, but this time Holmes rolled out to the right and connected on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Dre Berry.
King and Queen Central coach Kenny Waters’ game plan coming in was to rely heavily on his team’s athleticism.
“We gotta take what the defense gives us, we like the matchup,” Waters said.
His team even attacked matchups that were evenly defended. Rosanova was great at times in pass coverage for Chincoteague, even intercepting a pass in the end zone, but King and Queen Central kept their composure behind their freshman quarterback and were steadfast, padding their lead in the first half with a 42-yard pump fake touchdown pass down the left sideline to Graham, and a similar ball fake seconds later to Hill for 26 yards. The score was 25-0 at halftime, a true runaway built on track-like speed.
“We’re small, but we’re feisty,” Waters said.
Chincoteague athletic director Jimmy Bloxom spoke similarly of the opposing team.
“You can’t teach speed, they have athletes,” Bloxom said.
In the stands and on the sidelines, Chincoteague’s fans described a game that was beyond reach.
“It boils down to speed,” said Wade Townsend. “They believe their team can outrun ours on pass plays.”
Townsend viewed the game with an expert eye and believed inside pressure was lacking on defense for the Ponies.
“The quarterback is getting too much time, the team needs someone who can disrupt things and it’s not happening,” Townsend said.
The second half was essentially a continuation of the first. Holmes ran for a touchdown and threw for another, completing on a 25-yard pass to Berry. Charles Mills concluded the scoring with a strong 25-yard touchdown run.
Chincoteague coach Tony Nock was very blunt in describing his team’s effort.
“We played flat, stayed flat,” said Nock.
Chincoteague’s misfortunes were further realized with the loss of quarterback Leonard to injury. His effort was undeniable all night, but he took a lot of hits and an airborne hit from a helmet to his back forced him to the sidelines, exiting the game in an ambulance.
Chincoteague will have a lot of adjustments to address headed into this week’s homecoming matchup with Broadwater Academy, a team sporting a 2-1 record. With a depleted roster and a number of losses, Chincoteague needs to foster an identity moving forward.
“They gotta get back to finding themselves,” said Nock.
Undefeated King and Queen Central faces Middlesex next and Waters is all business ahead of the game.
“We’ve got a good mesh right now, we just need to keep the focus,” said Waters.