A stellar first quarter was undone by a dreadful second quarter for the Hornets as they spent the rest of the night trying to play catch up, ultimately falling short against the visiting Orange Coast Pirates 31-23 at Shapell stadium on Saturday night.
The Hornets looked sharp to begin their first conference game, scoring on two of their first three possessions, while holding the Pirates on their side of the field the entire first quarter.
Quarterback Trey Tinsley capped off their opening drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Butler to put them on the scoreboard. The Hornets next score came on Jake Brito 6-yard run off tackle.
After a near flawless 15 minutes of play, the Hornets intensity seemed to wane moving into the second quarter.
FC was hurt by three big plays in a matter of minutes.
The Pirates first touchdown came on a perfectly thrown post route from quarterback Mason Dossey to Stefan Derrick, who caught the ball as two Hornets defenders collided and scampered the rest of the 71 yards untouched.
Dossey hit Derrick again on their next possession. This time Derrick got behind Hornets cornerback D’Angelo Ross on a double move for the 41-yard catch that setup the Pirates 3-yard touchdown by Daniel Rodriguez to tie the game at 14-14.
Next, Kyle White took the ball 80 yards for the score, after making the usually sure tackling Hornets safety Tim Roberts miss what looked like a routine stop near the line of scrimmage.
The Pirates added a field goal after a muffed snap and turnover by the Hornets just before half. Within what amounted to 10 minutes on the game clock, the Hornets found themselves down 24-14 going into halftime.
The Hornets defense looked reinvigorated and focused following the break, holding the Pirates scoreless nearly the entire second half.
With the Hornets down just 24-20, the Pirates final scoring drive could be best categorized as a series of fortunate calls that went OCC’s way. At worst it could be construed as poor refereeing. Early in the drive, Roberts intercepted a pass dropping to a knee– making no contact with the receiver until after he secured the ball. Not knowing if he was down or not, Roberts attempted to get up and run the other way. After three or four strides, the back judge threw a flag for what ended up being a highly questionable and incredibly late pass interference call that allowed the Pirates to retain possession.
Later that same drive on a fourth-and-inches run play, the Hornets defense penetrated into the backfield and appeared to easily stop Pirates fullback Ian Pogue well before the line-of-scrimmage. However, a generous spot by the referee would prove otherwise as once again the drive was extended.
“From our point of view on the sideline, he [Pogue] never made it back to the line of scrimmage, but what can you do,” said Brian Crooks, Hornets defensive coordinator.
A beleaguered Hornets defensive unit finally gave way a few plays later, when Pogue punched it in from the 1-yard-line for the score putting the Pirates up 31-20. The scoring drive lasted over 7 minutes.
Down two scores with 3 minutes to play, the Hornets moved the ball down the field quickly, but were forced to kick a chip shot from 27 yards out after stalling inside the 10.
The ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Pirates, ending the Hornets late comeback attempt.
Crooks was quick to point out that regardless how the calls went, the Hornets didn’t play up to their capabilities and that lack of intensity is what cost them the game tonight.
“We didn’t play fast on defense, we played slow tonight and when you play slow that is what happens, breaks don’t go your way,” said Crooks.
Tinsley had a good game statistically, completing 71 percent of his passes for 294 yards and 1 touchdown. The only thing missing from the repertoire tonight was the deep ball. He gave credit to the Pirates defense for keeping pressure on him all night. They finished with 5 sacks, along with 8 tackles for a loss.
“You have to take your hat off to Orange Coast they played a better game than us tonight,” said Tinsley.
Tonight marked the Hornets first loss to Orange Coast in over a decade.
“I know they have been down the past couple years, but coach Emerson is putting together a good program there,” said Tinsley.
Next week the Hornets (2-2, 0-1) will have another stiff test when they take on undefeated Golden West (4-0, 1-0). Game time is Saturday at 6 p.m. in Huntington Beach.