With Tyrese Simmons, Chase Coker and company no longer around to make big plays, the Cumberland Redskins looked to be a team in transition coming into the 2014 season.
After a 28-18 win Saturday over Evarts in the HCHS Bowl (grades 7-8), it appears the Redskins aren’t in quite as much trouble as many originally thought.
With quarterback Xavier Simmons making plays on the outside and running back Tyler Casolari picking up yardage up the middle, the Redskins were able to move the football throughout the game.
“We only had 13 kids who played, and I think conditioning hurt us a little, but our leaders stepped up, James Brown and Groundhog (Simmons) and Blake (Gladson),” Cumberland coach Wes Bailey said. “They stepped up and we got our running game and threw it a little, and our defense played better the second half, but they had some kids hurt, so you can’t judge.”
The first half was spent trading touchdowns, beginning with Simmons breaking loose for a 39-yard touchdown run on the game’s second play. Evarts answered with a six-play drive that featured a 31-yard run by Thomas Potter and ended with a 14-yard scamper by Hobert Cornett around the right side for a touchdown and a 6-6 tie with 2:53 left in the first quarter.
Casolari went 17 yards and Gladson ran 9 to set up a 14-yard quarterback keeper by Simmons for a touchdown with 7:11 left in the second quarter. Caudill made a stop on the conversion, bringing down Casolari to keep the Skins’ lead at six points.
Jacob Howard rumbled 34 yards for a first down on the Cumberland 22 but was injured on the play and didn’t return. Potter went 21 yards for the touchdown two plays later to tie the game at 12 with 3:10 left in the first half.
Evarts recovered a fumble on the next play after a pass was completed from Simmons to Casolari. The Wildcats took the lead on the next play as Potter went 64 yards with 2:19 to play in the half.
The Wildcats had a chance to go into halftime with a lead as they forced the Skins into a third-and-17 play, but Cumberland came up with a big play after Bailey called a timeout. Simmons found Casolari over the middle, lofting a pass over several Evarts defenders for a 41-yard touchdown play with 17 seconds left in the half. Simmons’ conversion gave Cumberland a 20-18 lead at the break.
“We had trouble keeping contain,” Evarts coach Needham Saylor said. “Our ends were getting sucked in a little. There were some things we have to work on and getting fixed.
“We saw some good things. Our counters and traps looked pretty good, and our guards did a good job of pulling. Our backs got lost a few plays The second half turned into a defensive struggle as neither team scored in the third quarter, even though Evarts missed a golden opportunity after Potter recovered a fumble and the Cats drove into Cumberland territory.
A 45-yard run by Casolari early in the fourth quarter was the big play in the Skins’ final scoring drive. Casolari broke a couple of tackles as he bulled his way in from the 9 with 6:14 left. Simmons added the conversion to push the lead to 10 and the Cumberland defense took over from there to complete the shutout.
“We had a good 1-2 punch with Simmons and Casolari, and Blake had some good runs,” Bailey said. “If we can keep everybody healthy, I think we can be pretty good. I’m proud of my kids. For a first game, I think we did pretty well.”
Evarts (0-1) returns to action Tuesday at home against New Harlan. Cumberland plays in the Mountain Middle School Athletic Conference Gridorama on Saturday at Harlan and will play at New Harlan on Aug. 21.