Putnam County had a rough start to its 2018 season.
The War Eagles fell to the North Oconee Titans in last Friday’s opener, 58-21, to begin the season with an 0-1 record. The Eagles were able to have a few successful moments during the game but, unfortunately for them, the Titans entered Al Reaves Field determined and ready to play.
“We obviously made a lot of mistakes,” head coach Shaun Pope said. “All in all, it goes back to me. I want to thank the community, first of all. The school had a lot of spirit and the community came out in droves but, come 7:30 p.m., we didn’t put a good product on the field. That comes back on me.”
After going three-and-out on its first offensive drive, Putnam’s defense was able to capitalize on the North Oconee quarterback’s tendency to drop the ball and numerous Titan penalties to make a fourth down stand in the Putnam red zone. Keontay Card had a tackle for a loss and Darius McDaniel picked up the big fourth down stop to turn the ball over.
However, the Eagle offense was unable to get out of the red zone, and quarterback Ethan Crouch took a sack in the end zone to give North Oconee a safety for an early lead. Back on offense, the Titans found the end zone for their first touchdown of the game.
North Oconee converted a fourth down to set up another touchdown early in the second quarter, putting it at a 16-0 lead. Putnam got on the board shortly after with a kickoff return for a touchdown by Marcus Jefferson.
However, more misfortune found the Eagles as the Titans ripped off another touchdown run. North Oconee found more success throughout the remainder of the half, and the scoreboard read 37-7 by the end of the half in favor of the visiting Titans.
After North Oconee received the second-half kickoff, a stroke of luck emerged for the Eagles as the Titans’ lack of ball security finally came back to bite them when Jumil Denham grabbed a fumble to put the Eagles back on offense with good field position. However, another bout of misfortune followed right after as Crouch’s first down pass was intercepted right on the heels of the fumble.
The Titan offense marched on to add several more touchdowns in the second half, effectively putting the game out of reach for the Eagles. Putnam kept on fighting in spite of the large deficit and was able to earn a few more touchdowns of its own.
Sandwiched between North Oconee’s final two touchdowns, Denham carried the rock into the end zone to erase some of the large lead that the Titans held over the Eagles. Jacobee Lane also earned a touchdown early in the final quarter to bring the score to 58-21.
Shortly after, the weather decided to intervene in North Oconee’s imminent victory. With around 10 minutes remaining in the game, a storm began to move into Eatonton and lightning was detected nearby. After around a 20-minute delay, the game was called due to the inclement weather, with the final result being a North Oconee victory over the War Eagles, 58-21.
Pope said that the Eagles’ approach to week two of the season would be different, saying that preparing for the next game started with “fixing ourselves first.”
“We’re going to take care of this and fix things,” Pope said. “We’re doing a lot of things different this week to try to correct some of our mistakes. We didn’t do our part, and we’re going to get that fixed this week.”
Despite the shaky start to a new era of Putnam football, the War Eagles have a long season ahead of them and room for improvement is not out of the question. Putnam will be back in business against Temple this Friday, kicking off at 7:30 p.m. at Al Reaves Field.
Putnam football still has a lot of promise, so a week of hard work to iron out the kinks should give the Eagles a chance to bounce back.