It’s tough to hang onto the lead when you can’t hang onto the football.
Nobody knows that better than the Frost Polar Bears, who let their season opener against Chico slip right through their hands Saturday night.
The Polar Bears fumbled the ball 11 times, lost four of them and watched Chico score twice by just picking up what Frost left on the ground.
It was costly.
Like 38-14 costly.
That was the final score, and it could’ve and should’ve and would’ve been a lost closer if not for the fumbles. They simply killed Frost, which was coming off the best year in the school’s history.
The Polar Bears have enough talent to make another run in the playoffs, but they had to scramble even before the opening night kickoff at Pennington Field in Bedford, where there were plenty of blue-adorned fans in the stands.
Talk about a backfield in motion. Frost had one this week -- literally. The plan was to move junior Zack Terry into the quarterback spot and let the Bears take wings. Terry has a strong and an accurate arm, but no one saw it Saturday night.
Terry was injured in practice on Wednesday, and the Polar Bears had to scratch the idea of throwing the ball and find another way to win. They threw one pass all night -- and that was on a two-point conversion play.
Coach Eric Blenden juggled a couple of quarterbacks and a star was almost born. That’s Kobe Hailey, a freshman who has all the promise of being the next sensation at Frost. He finished the game with 117 yards on 15 carries and played quarterback and running back as Justin Patton had is moments at QB. Hailey’s electric.
He’s quick and he’s exciting, and he gave Frost its only lead of the game in the first quarter when he raced 74 yards for a touchdown on a play that started with a fumble (what else?).
That’s right, the freshmen bobbled the ball, scooped it up on the first bounce, broke a tackle and then darted down the right sideline. Then he completed the first pass of his career when he found Colton Clayton on the right side to lift the Polar Bears to an 8-6 lead with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
Frost had to come back to take the lead after Chico opened the game with a 65-yard run by Matt Carter, a receiver who was playing QB with the hope of springing a big play. It worked.
After that play Jericoe McGuire took over at quarterback for the Dragons. He didn’t have to do much because, between the Frost fumbles and the punting of Ivan Segura, the Dragons seemed to have good field position most of the night.
McGuire ran for 62 yards on nine carries, including a 38-yard TD run, and he completed 7 of 16 passes for 105 yards, including a 19-yard TD pass to Carter in the fourth quarter.
His TD run lifted Chico to a 12-8 lead with 8:32 left in the half, and the Dragons picked up a quick-six when -- following a punt that buried Frost at the 4-yard line -- J.D. Parketon fell on a Frost fumble in the end zone with 2:17 left in the half.
It was 18-8 at halftime, and the game all but turned on one play midway in the third quarter. Hailey broke free for an 80-yard TD run, but the play was wiped out by a holding penalty, and instead of a tight game full of drama, Frost was backed up to its own 10.
Chico’s defense did it again. Chris Gilmore grabbed a fumble and returned it four yards for a TD and Segura’s PAT gave Chico a 25-8 lead with 5:18 left in the third in the biggest swing of the night.
Frost had its moments, Robert Worley, who ran for 56 yards on 12 carries, scored on a 12-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, and Woody Woods finished the night with 34 yards on 12 carries with some tough running inside. Both played well on defense as well as Clayton and at times the Frost D dominated Chico.
But on a night when Frost was scrambling to find a quarterback and trying to find the handle, it just wasn’t enough.
It’s tough to hang onto the lead when you can’t hang onto the football.
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