FOOTBALL: Dukes can’t overcome early deficit vs. Mapleton

A long football season still lies ahead, but Friday night’s contest was one the Dukes (0-2) will want to learn from.

They’ll have to put a 49-19 loss to the Mapleton Mounties of Ashland in the rear view mirror.

“Last week, we played three quarters of a good game,” said Dukes head coach Roy Moore. “This week, we played a bad first half then came out with some more fight. We didn’t give up and came out with some fight. We’re moving in the right direction.”

Mapleton (1-1) pounced on the Dukes early to the tune of a 19-0 lead with 4:48 still remaining in the first quarter.

A shoulder injury forced sophomore quarterback Ben Higgins from the game soon thereafter, leaving senior receiver Mason Wright to take over under center.

Toward the end of the first quarter, Wright recovered a Mapleton fumble, returned it 45-yards into the red zone, and proceeded to score on a bootleg from five yards out to get the Dukes on the board.

Wright closed the first half with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Mason McClellan and broke loose for a 60-yard run for six early in the fourth quarter.

That long run came one play after an 80-yard touchdown to Parker Rieske was negated by a penalty.

“We have to play both halves,” said Wright. “We played a lot better in the second half but we gave up too many points early on, and we can’t have that. We have to be better.”

Leading 19-6 entering the second quarter, Mapleton quarterback Logan Pharmer broke to the outside for a 19-yard score. On the ensuing series, a blocked punt gave the Mounties the ball back at the Dukes’ 10-yard line, which quickly led to Mapleton’s Parker Rohr barrelling across the goal line for another touchdown.

A Dukes fumble was soon scooped up by Mapleton’s Ethan Hartley and returned 33-yards for one more end zone trip before Wright’s touchdown pass ended the half.

“It feels like we just get nervous and tired,” Wright said. “Maybe not tired, just kind of scared. We adjust to it and get over it later in the game but that needs to happen in the first quarter. We need to be mean in the first quarter.”

Second half scoring included Wright’s long run, a 69-yard run after the catch for Mapleton, and the Dukes getting stuck in their own end zone for a safety.

Next week will start Patriot Athletic Conference play for Wellington when they travel to New London to take on the Wildcats, who’ve also began the season 0-2.

“We’ll get where we want to be,” said coach Moore. “We only gave up nine points in the second half to keep it from becoming a big rout, but the effort is there. The effort is getting better. It’s a matter of playing 48 minutes. You can’t pick and choose when you want to play. It has to be right off the bat. That’s what we’re going to work on this week.”

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

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Mason Wright scores on a bootleg during Wellington’s 49-19 loss to the Mapleton Mounties Friday night. Wright scores on a bootleg during Wellington’s 49-19 loss to the Mapleton Mounties Friday night.

A caravan of Dukes blockers clears a path for Mason Wright. caravan of Dukes blockers clears a path for Mason Wright.

By Jonathan Delozier