Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Elijah Bugg runs up the sideline to the endzone with the New London defense giving chase.
Penalties and an unsound defense cost the Phoenix football varsity team its home opener Friday as Oberlin fell 46-27 to the New London Wildcats.
Oberlin received the opening kickoff and quarterback David Payne was ready to lead his warriors down the field.
He did not disappoint head coach Michael Law in his first game running the offense and moving the ball swiftly down the field.
“He’s turned out to be what we expected of him,” Law said. “He’s going to continue to grow. He’s only a junior. He’s going to be a phenomenal football player.”
Payne led with Elijah Bugg in a pass to the end zone after only seven drives.
The Phoenix defense struggled in the first quarter to stop the Wildcats’ ground game and earned multiple holding, face mask, and late hit penalties.
New London ran in for a touchdown within two minutes and then the Phoenix fumbled on the kick return. The Wildcats recovered, leading to a second touchdown before the first quarter was over, making it 14-7.
Oberlin’s offense started strong in the second quarter but back-to-back penalties brought back a 33-yard run by Bugg to the center of the field. That meant the Phoenix had to cover 25 yards for a first down.
New London picked off a pass by Payne and ran it into the red zone, scoring two plays later.
Payne continued to move the ball well down the field, throwing and scrambling for extra yards. The Wildcats struggled to break down the Phoenix offense because Payne had multiple threats at his disposal in Kobe Fields, Devin Yarber, Journey Toole, and Bugg.
Law said he expects all four players to have a great season.
“We played well offensively and it’s because you have a quarterback that can distribute the ball other than last year where we ran the ball,” he said.
Fields ran in for a touchdown before halftime to cut New London’s lead to 27-14.
Oberlin tightened its defense in the second half but could not find a way to stop the running game as the Wildcats extended their lead to 33-14.
“They didn’t surprise us with one thing they did,” he said. “We knew exactly what they were going to do. They just did it better then what we were able to defend.”
In the second half, Payne put the focus on air attacks for another touchdown, making it 40-21.
The Wildcats and Phoenix were both able to score one more touchdown before the end of the game.
Law said the emphasis this week is on defense as the Phoenix prepare to travel to Brookside to play the Cardinals at 7 p.m. Friday.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.