North Oconee football battled at Cambridge High School on Friday, Sept. 3, ultimately falling by a score of 21-19.
Despite a comeback bid late in the third quarter, the Titans made errors during critical plays that cost them the game.
A minute into the contest, a fumble on the Titans’ 23-yard line was quickly recovered by Cambridge, leading to the Bears’ first touchdown of the night.
Titans head coach Tyler Aurandt expressed his frustration with those early errors.
He wants to eliminate mistakes and start the game quicker and stronger. The Titans have battled from behind to either lead or tie the score in all three games this season.
“We preached all week that we wanted to start fast, and I think we got off to a slow start and had to play from behind again,” Aurandt said. “Credit to our kids that we’ve been able to overcome adversity. We just need to find a way to start the game a little bit cleaner and avoid mistakes early.”
Cambridge again scored during the second quarter with a pass into the end zone, but the Titans found a response two minutes later, scoring a touchdown of their own and cutting the Bears’ lead in half.
North Oconee nearly tied the game by the end of the half, running in its second touchdown of the night. However, a missed extra point could not even the score.
Cambridge led 14-13 at the halftime buzzer.
Soon after returning to the field, the Bears improved their lead with a touchdown and made the point after. Like the second quarter, the Titans quickly responded with their third touchdown.
In an attempt to fully even the score, the Titans opted out of an extra point kick and took their chance at a 2-point conversion, but could not find the end zone.
The last hope for North Oconee did not occur until late in the fourth quarter.
With two minutes left in the game, the Titans found the red zone, hoping to put the ball over the goal line or through the goalposts.
The Titans were unable to secure a first down, forcing a field goal that would win the game. Unfortunately for North Oconee, it was unable to put the ball through, turning the ball over to the Bears with a minute left and thus falling in Milton.
With multiple players taking snaps on both sides of the ball, Aurandt sees fatigue as a recurring concern for his team.
Both tight ends, a couple safeties, a few linemen and special teams players are responsible for many snaps per game, taking a toll on offense and defense for the Titans.
“We’re playing a lot of kids both ways,” Aurandt said. “Kids are learning how to manage that, as we are, and kind of getting a gauge on how many plays they need to play on this side of the ball versus this side of the ball. You’re trying to feel your way through that and you don’t have a lot of time to do that because you’re playing really good opponents to start the season.”
While Aurandt was unsure about his starting quarterback just a week before the first game of the season, he has continued to play the prospects when he sees fit.
Gavin Black and Louden Schnake have each taken a turn at the start, but both saw time in Friday’s game.
“We base it on how they prepare throughout the week for who’s going to start and as the game goes, who may take more snaps,” Aurandt said. “We continue to work as many of them in there as we need, but it’s dictated by how practice goes and the flow of the game.”
This has benefited the North Oconee offense, as Black, Schnake and other prospects bring different skills to the field.
The rest of the offensive players are able to quickly adjust to whichever quarterback is called upon.
“They’ve adapted very well to whoever’s back there,” Aurandt said. “They all bring a different skill set and we’re able to do some different things when one of them is in versus another. From a game plan, that’s something that we work on throughout the week.”
The Titans enter their game against Benedictine on Sept. 10 hoping to improve on their 1-2 record.