Turnovers came back to haunt the Dukes (0-3) again on the football field Friday in a 34-8 loss to the New London Wildcats (1-2).
Two Dukes fumbles inside their own 10-yard line, one by way of a high snap, resulted in a 14-0 New London lead with just under six minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Wellington then fumbled the ensuing kickoff to give the Wildcats another short field. An effective pass rush led by Drew Mason forced New London into a fourth and goal situation from the 16-yard line but quarterback Dane Matthews managed to brush off two blitzers and scramble up the sideline for the touchdown.
Mason finished with three sacks, a blocked punt, and along with Alex Goss was a main cog in a Wellington pass rush that held its own for most of the game while being placed in difficult positions.
“We just have to come together as a team,” he said. “We get down on ourselves and go off on each other at halftime. We just have to play hard and win for ourselves. It’s hard work down on the line and you get beat up, but you have to go hard and do whatever it takes to win.”
On the blocked kick, Mason got into the backfield quickly enough to tackle New London punter Cayden Hofheins before the ball was airborne.
“The outcome tonight wasn’t what we wanted but we’re going to go get them next week and keep at it,” he said.
A New London fumble halfway through the second quarter gave the Dukes brief hope of climbing back into the game, but an ensuing stop by the Wildcats and long scoring drive soon thereafter made the score 26-0 as the first half came to a close.
In the second half, New London got its remaining points through an interception returned 60 yards for a touchdown and pinning the Dukes in the endzone for a safety.
Wellington got on the board in the fourth quarter through a safety of its own and a 30-yard touchdown pass from Jayden Skinner to Nathaniel Shelton. The duo set up the score one play earlier with a 35-yard connection that Shelton hauled in by outjumping two New London defenders.
Skinner was in at quarterback for Mason Wright, who’d been filling the shoes of injured starter Ben Higgins.
The team is back at home for more Patriot Athletic Conference play this Friday against the 2-1 Clearview Clippers. Head coach Roy Moore said the big mistakes must get cleaned up if the Dukes want to turn their season around.
“We fumbled the first play, they go and score, we kick off, and we fumble again,” he said. “We hurt ourselves in the first half again. We work hard in practice and the things we want to do seem to work, but then we get to the game and it seems to backfire. We’ll get there. We had great effort in the second half. Everything is correctable.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.