Arguably the worst Roswell Hornet varsity football season in the program's extensive 61-year history came to a close Friday night when they lost to the Milton Eagles, 14-13.
With a chance to knock rival Milton out of playoff contention, the Hornets collapsed in the second half. The team played extraordinarily well in the first half. After a defensive battle in the first quarter, the Hornets broke the scoreless tie with a 35-yard touchdown on a stunning catch by junior wide receiver Bennett Barton.
Winning 6-0 after Milton blocked the extra point, the Hornets drove down the field yet again thanks to a long run by junior running back Corey Wilson. However, Casey Culver threw an interception on the goal line that left the Hornets emptied handed.
In the dwindling seconds of the second half junior running back Andrew Kwateng, who has been plagued by injury this season, broke a 66-yard touchdown run, his first of the season, to end the first half 13-0, Roswell. This marked the first time all season that the Hornets shutout an opposing team for the first half.
The second half proved to be a nightmare yet again for the young Roswell football team. After failing to score on the opening drive of the half, the Hornets gave up a touchdown to Milton that made the score 13-7. Throughout the entire third quarter the Hornets were unable to sustain drives, not once moving the ball into Milton territory.
Interlocked in a defensive skirmish, the Hornets and Eagles shared possessions and turnovers as both teams failed to score for the majority of the fourth quarter. After a Hornet fumble with over six minutes remaining, the Eagles failed to score while in the red zone, unable to convert a fourth down attempt.
With only 2:30 remaining in the game Roswell lined up to punt the ball to the Eagles. Roswell’s starting punter Bennett Barton, who also plays wide receiver and place kicker, injured himself on the previous play and was unable unable to punt. In relief of the injured Barton, senior Zach Allen kicked the ball off the side of his foot, punting the ball a total of 17-yards. This special teams blunder gave Milton the ball back with over two minutes to go at the 50-yard line in prime position to win the game.
The Hornets managed to spot the Eagles on 4th and 2; however, a facemask penalty called against Hornet junior defensive lineman Hunter Hill gave Milton an automatic first down. On the following play, senior quarterback Colin McElroy threw a touchdown pass to the back of the end zone. The Roswell fans at Ray Manus Stadium grew deaf, witnessing the yet another Hornet’s fourth quarter meltdown.
After the Loss, Looking Ahead
It was certainly a somber sight after Friday night’s game. The loss not only marked the end of the Hornets 2011 season, but also the end of the senior players career as Hornets. For several of these seniors, the loss marked the final time they would play the sport that had dominated their high school career.
Remarkably, the loss to Milton marks the Hornets tenth consecutive loss on the season. The Hornets finish the 2011 season with an abysmal 0-10, completing the infamous imperfect season. Prior to this season the Hornets had not lost ten games in a three-season span.
Many questions are already looming over the Roswell football program for next season and as always the expectations for the team remain extremely high. Coach Sanderson and the rest of the Roswell football program have a long road ahead of them to rebound next year.
It should be kept in mind that this season was primarily a rebuilding year for the Hornets. The Hornets lost their starting quarterback, two defensive linemen, three offensive lineman and several other seniors to graduation last year. The team came into this season being very young and at times it was obviously apparent. Extensive penalties, foolish turnovers and the inability to close out games can all be attributed to a lack of veteran presence.
There is no doubt that this season was a disappointment for the team, fans and school in general. On the contrary, the respect the community holds for these players and staff members is undeniable. The time and effort the Hornet players put in to play at such a high level is incredible. The teams record this year does not begin to show the amount of will each individual player and staff member has put forward. The team gave it there all from day one and that is all you can ask a team to do.