Erie Community College opened their football season Saturday at Jim Ball Stadium against the College of DuPage. The Kats dug themselves a hole in the first half, and even a powerful second half surge couldn't bring them back, as they dropped the game 48-21.
Chaparrals quarterback Bobby Vega carved up the Kats defense, throwing for 337 yards and five touchdowns. Vega opened the scoring on their second drive when he found wide receiver Jasper Golden on a 10-yard out route, and Golden did the rest. He broke a tackle and took it 78 yards for the touchdown.
It didn't get any better from there for ECC, as the Chaparrals built a 34-0 lead before the Kats finally got on the board in the third quarter. When the coach addressed the situation after the game, he could see many of his players were edgy during the beginning of the game.
"The first game is always nervous. It was nervous for everybody," 11th year head coach Dennis Greene said. "We had a lot of missed tackles, and they capitalized on every mistake we made."
Greene made it clear that there was one main problem that he noticed throughout the game, and that his team will be working to perfect it this week.
"Tackling. There was a touchdown run, our defensive tackle had him, and the guy walked right out of his arms. On another play, our defensive back tackled the guy, but he broke through his arms and went 80 yards down the sidelines. Two plays, two tackles, no touchdowns. You subtract two scores from there, and we have a different game," he said.
Heading into the third quarter, Greene decided to make a quarterback change to hopefully bring a spark to his offense, and it worked. Drake Sunderland was replaced by Joe Daddario. It had an effect right away as the Kats scored 21 points behind Daddario.
"Joe, had a whole first half to sit out and watch and see what was going on. He looked very comfortable, relaxed and moved the ball. He checked. He was doing things the other guy wasn't doing," Greene said.
Other than seeing an improved offense, Greene saw other reasons for encouragement.
"Our offensive line came together. Didn't seem like it in the first half. We weren't putting them in a position to succeed early on," he said.
Once they started making the right play selections, things changed quickly. "Then, we hit little Winston and told him to take it home," he said.
Deonta Winston rushed the ball 14 times for 136 yards, establishing himself as the No. 1 back on the Kats offense.
Another big contributor for ECC was wide receiver Taylor Miller. He caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from halfback Justin Miller to get the Kats on the board. Miller hauled in another pass on a crucial fourth down, along with a 30-yard pass down the sideline which set up the Kats third TD of the game. He finished the game with three catches for 61 yards.
Taylor Miller pointed to one thing that led to his success in the second half.
"The run. We ran the whole first half. Run, run, run. As soon as they started creeping up the pass was open," he said.
Miller believes the team will be fine heading into the season and that the first game just takes time to get used to for some guys. "We have to come out with unity next game. And we will be fine; it's just the first game," he said.
The Kats return to action next Saturday at Louisburg (N.C.) College in their conference opener. Greene believes his players will be ready.
"They have a game under their belt; they know what it's like, so now, let's see what happens," he said.