The heartbreak start of the 2012 football season continued for Irmo on Friday night.
After dropping their first two games by a combined 13 points against two highly ranked teams, the Yellow Jackets were hoping to pull an upset in their home opener against No. 3 Greenwood.
But six turnovers and several costly penalties derailed those plans in a 21-7 loss to the Eagles at newly renovated W.C. Hawkins Stadium.
“You play a good football team like they are and make mistakes, and they’re going to beat you,” Irmo coach Bob Hanna said. “We had opportunities to win this game, just like we had opportunities to win our first two games. Until we learn how to finish games and deal with pressure in pressure situations, we’re going to continue to give games away. The kids work hard and play hard, but stuff comes up that leaves you scratching your head.”
The slide started early, and Irmo (0-3) never recovered.
The Yellow Jackets took the opening kickoff and drove near midfield before running back Bryce Fashaw had the first of his two fumbles on the game’s fifth play. Kaleb Chalmers picked up the loose ball and scampered 44 yards to put Greenwood up 7-0 a little over two minutes into the game.
But that was just the start of the miscues.
Irmo turned it over on its first three possessions, but thanks to the Eagles’ own mistakes, only the first turned into Greenwood points.
The Yellow Jackets moved into Greenwood territory on their second possession only to have Fashaw cough it up for the second time.
The final Irmo first half turnover came after the Eagles had a miscue of their own. After stopping Irmo on their third drive, Greenwood (3-0) muffed a punt that the Yellow Jackets’ Cliff Barrett recovered at the Eagles 43-yard line. But on the next play, Greenwood got the ball back when Chalmers snagged a one-handed interception at the Eagles’ 13-yard line.
Both teams felt they could have done more offensively in the first half after five combined turnovers. Chris Bethea stopped an Eagle drive with an interception later in the second quarter. Greenwood also missed a 37-yard field goal on its first series and failed on a fourth-down attempt from the Irmo 23 late in the second quarter, when Larenzo Mathis was stopped for no gain. That sealed a 7-0 lead at the half.
“It was tough going there for a while,” Greenwood coach Gene Cathcart said. “We moved the ball between the 20’s, but we didn’t do a good job of converting. Irmo played pretty good defense against us, but we finally got a couple in the end zone in the second half. It wasn’t pretty, but any win is a good win, especially on this field. ”
Irmo opened the third quarter just like they played the first half. They stopped Greenwood on a three-and-out, but Bethea fumbled the punt, and Bradley Tatko recovered at the Yellow Jackets’ 31-yard line. Two plays later, the Eagles would have faced a third-and-14, but Bethea was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for flexing at the Greenwood sideline after an incomplete pass.
That gave the Eagles a first down at the 20. Six plays later, Evin Sims scored from a yard out to make it 14-0.
“We gave them 14 points,” Hanna said. “We have them stopped ... and then all of a sudden it’s 14-0. Until we stop doing that, we’re going to get our behind beat. It’s my job as the coach to eliminate those, and trust me, we’re going to address those things.”
Irmo had a chance to trim the deficit late in the third quarter, but they fumbled a pitch inside the Greenwood 10-yard line. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Sims raced 80 yards to make it a three-score game.
Sims was the game’s leading rusher with 101 yards on 14 carries.
“The difference in the game was certainly turnovers and penalties,” Cathcart said.
Demetrius Lewis was a bright spot for Irmo. He came on in replacement of starting Grant Davitte late in the second quarter when Davitte left with a shoulder injury. Lewis was 15-for-21 for 189 yards with a 47-yard scoring pass to Trey Suber in the fourth quarter.
“He did a good job,” Hanna said of Lewis. “He’s a young quarterback, and he stepped up against a good team. But the bottom line is you can’t turn the ball over against a team that runs that offense. Our defense played extremely hard and got after it, but the penalties hurt us. We had selfish and foolish penalties, and that has to stop.”
G – Kaleb Chalmers 44 fumble return (Matt McManis kick) 9:53
G – Evin Sims 1 run (McManis kick) 7:42
G – Sims 80 run (McManis kick) 11:47
I – Trey Suber 47 pass from Demetrius Lewis (Ben Hinson kick) 8:20