Tigers fall in season opener

By Salem Isaf salemisaf@gmail.com
Posted 8/30/21

In their opening game of the 2021 football season, the Paris Tigers suffered a tough loss to the Little Illini Conference foe Newton Eagles 7-6.

After exhibiting steadfast defense for the …

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Tigers fall in season opener

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In their opening game of the 2021 football season, the Paris Tigers suffered a tough loss to the Little Illini Conference foe Newton Eagles 7-6.

After exhibiting steadfast defense for the majority of the game and a dominant offense in the 3rd quarter, the tigers couldn’t overcome a few crucial injuries, penalties and offensive missteps.

After winning the coin toss, Paris elected to defer possession until the second half, and began the game by quickly forcing a Newton three-and-out. Paris picked up the ball at their own 30-yard line and began a promising drive with a quick first down, before eventually stalling at the 50 and taking a loss on an option to Eli Board, forcing a punt.

The Tigers defense prevented the Eagles from reaching a first down for the second straight possession, causing multiple incomplete passes and a punt. In control of the ball again at their own 25-yard line, Paris started another slow drive, narrowly avoiding an interception on a screen pass on second down, and punting two plays later.

Newton started up a slightly more successful push, this time at their own 20, achieving their initial first down of the game facing a third and 10 situation. Their momentum seemed to slow two plays later as they fumbled the ball a few yards forward, ending their drive with a booming kick all the way back down to the Paris 8-yard line from their own 37.

The Paris hiccups began this possession with their backs on the goal-line, taking a loss of 2 with a run on first down, a fumbled snap for a loss of 4 on second, ending with a penalty and meager punt from the 4-yard line, giving the Eagles the ball on the Paris 20.

Newton quickly capitalized on their field positioning with a slew of passes, netting them the first touchdown of the game on a hitch route to the edge of the end zone with the Eagle receiver laying out for the pass just along the sideline. They converted the PAT with 7:28 left in the first half.

Paris started strong after the Newton score, emphasizing their run game as a preview to the second half, but after a fourth-down conversion by Bryan Kohlmeyer, the Tigers were again halted by penalties and forced to punt with about two minutes left in the half.

Paris defense held strong once, forcing yet another three and out and a heroic punt block by Kohlmeyer deep in Eagles territory, beginning their offensive possession on Newton’s 20-yard line.

However, the Tigers failed to convert the big play into a score, following it with a false start, an incomplete pass and a lobbed throw tipped into Newton player Austin Moore’s hands for an interception, allowing Newton to close out the half 7-0.

It seemed as though the tide of the game was turning as the Tigers’ offense took control for the majority of third quarter, grinding their way down the field from their own 22-yard line. This drive was centered on the run game of Kohlmeyer and quarterback Ethan Dick, overcoming multiple penalties and converting on key fourth downs.

Pushing all the way to the Eagles’ two-yard line, Dick was able to run a sweep around the outside into the end zone on fourth and goal. The Tigers’ starting kicker, Landen Englum, was injured earlier in the game, prompting Paris to try for a two point conversion, but were stopped short. After churning the clock all the way down to 4:10 in the third quarter, the Tigers were still down 7-6.

Newton responded with a clock-demolishing drive of their own, focusing on strong runs straight up the middle and converting on two separate fourth down attempts. At the Tiger 22-yard line, Paris’ Norman Phillips and Nick Mohler stopped a key screen pass to the outside in what could have been a breakaway score. The drive was finally stopped at the Paris 10, following a fumble recovery by the Tigers.

With about half of the fourth quarter left to play, Paris began their final drive, initially focusing heavily on their run game from Dick, Kohlmeyer and Mohler. Pushing all the way to the Eagles’ 13-yard line, the Tigers again fell victim to their own mistakes, with a snap fumble, followed by a holding call and eventually a devastating sack bringing them all the way back to the 35.

A running back screen pass to Kohlmeyer put the Tigers back in scoring position at the 20 for one final fourth down attempt to score. Dick was able to loft the ball up on a breakaway out route to Phillips on the opposite edge of the field in the end zone, but he was unable to come down with it.

With 1:15 left in the game, Newton was able to run the clock out and take a knee for the game winner.

Coach Jeremy Clodfelder addressed multiple detractors on their ability to win, including injuries to starting running back Eli Board and a key lineman and kicker, Englum.

“They really thinned us out up front,” said Clodfelder. “And as far as running backs, we became a one-guy deal.”

Clodfelder lamented over his team’s inability to execute the most, ultimately taking responsibility for lack of preparation.

“At the end of the day its on me, I didn’t prepare them well enough,” said Clodfelder. “Newton has been a historical 4-2 team defensively and they came out in a 3-3 stack and it took us a couple of series to kinda get dialed in and realize up front how to block that stack.”

Ethan Dick led the Tigers offense, with 16 runs for 81 yards, and went 6/10  passing for 61 yards and 1 interception. Brian Kohlmeyer ran 14 times for 79 yards with 1 catch for 15 yards. Nick Mohler ran 3 times for 15 yards and Drew Pinkston caught 3 passes for 22 yards.

Paris will host the Casey-Westfield Warriors on Friday night with kickoff set for 7 p.m.