By Dennis Atwood email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- The Massanutten Military Academy Colonels hosted the Quantico Warriors in the season opener for both teams on Friday afternoon at Gordon D. Bowman Stadium.
The Colonels are looking to improve on last year's 3-7 campaign while in a rebuilding mode, having lost a lot of offensive and defensive talent to graduation and transfers.
MMA junior Derik Duklis, a transfer from West Springfield High School, earned the starting quarterback position and Friday's contest was Duklis' first varsity action in the field general role.
Duklis had a fine inaugural first half, completing 10 of 12 pass attempts for 89 yards, including touchdown tosses of five yards and one yard to junior wide receiver Damoni Gunter, as the Colonels took a 12-0 lead deep into the second quarter.
But the Warriors got on the board with 53 seconds remaining in the first half, on a 6-yard pass from quarterback Alec Furiak to wide receiver Treyton Tafolla, followed by a two-point conversion run by Anthony Lemons, to close the gap to 12-8, and take some positive momentum into the locker room.
Quantico then dominated the second half as Duklis went 3-for-11 passing after the break, including two interceptions, while the Warriors took advantage of three key Colonels turnovers to tack on 15 unanswered points and win going away, 23-12.
"I'm disappointed in myself," Colonels head coach Chris Gilliland said. "I felt like I let the guys down. I didn't coach them as hard as they probably should have been coached.
"All hats off to coach [Mike] Green and Quantico. They played really well. They took advantage of our mistakes, as they should have. When you turn the ball over that much, especially in their territory, it's tough to recover from that.
"Even if they don't get any points out of it, it's still a psychological thing. That was tough. We just didn't have the vigor to keep it going [in the second half]."
Duklis played cornerback/wide receiver at West Springfield and at wide receiver in the Colonels' 7-on-7 summer tournament games.
Gilliland has said that Duklis' combined running and passing skills remind him of last years' quarterback, Kenya Ray-Abrams. Long shadow? Yes indeed, as Ray-Abrams was last year's Patriot Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
MMA also lost receivers, and defensive nightmares, Travis Fulgham (transfer to Broad Run) and Jamauri Richardson (graduation), from the 2012 team.
On the Colonels' first possession, junior running back Joshua Holt ripped off a 41 yard scamper around right end on a second-and-25 play from the Quantico 46 to set up first-and-goal at the 5-yard line.
On the next play Duklis found Gunter in the end zone for six with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter.
As was the case last year, MMA is lacking a place-kicker and must resort to two-point conversion attempts, and Duklis was stopped short on a run to keep it at 6-0.
The Colonels took advantage of a Warriors' turnover when linebacker Joshua Kovach recovered a Quantico fumble on their own 38 with 11:10 to go in the second quarter.
On the seventh play of the ensuing drive, on third-and-7 on the 25, Holt broke off a 24-yard run to the 1. On the next play Duklis again found Gunter in the end zone and the two-point conversion pass attempt fell incomplete, giving the Colonels a 12-0 lead.
The Warriors began their next drive from their own 36, and used 15 plays, capped by Furiak's fourth pass attempt of the first half, connecting with Tafolla for a s6-yard touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion, making it 12-8 with a scant 53 seconds remaining.
The Colonels received the second half kickoff, but were stopped on downs after eight plays, which included completions by Duklis of seven yards to Gunter and nine yards to Houston Walls.
Duklis' went 0-for-his next seven attempts, with six incompletions and an interception returned for a touchdown, before getting one more completion followed by another interception.
On their first possession of the second half, Quantico needed only six plays to move from their own 30 to score on a 20-yard run by sophomore running back Codie Emunson, who also ran in the two-point conversion to give the Warriors a 16-12 lead with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter.
A big dose of bad luck then hit the Colonels on their next trip down the field.
On the first play of the drive Holt scooted for 32 yards to the Quantico 31, but the play was negated by off-setting penalties. On the next play, Holt appeared to be down before losing the ball, but it was ruled a fumble, and Quantico recovered the ball on the MMA 44.
Things were looking up for MMA when Grant Jewell recovered a Warriors fumble at the Colonels' 8-yard line.
But the Colonels' momentum spark was quickly doused on the third play of the drive, when Duklis suffered a pick-six by Emunson. Haavard Ommundsen's PAT kick was good, extending Quantico's lead to 23-13 with 11:10 remaining in the game.
"It was interesting," Emunson said. "Everyone worked hard.
"[The TD run] worked as diagrammed. Everyone worked hard to get their block and they kept on them. [On the interception] I just got into my zone and, once I saw the ball in the air, I adjusted to that."
After stopping the Warriors on four downs, MMA's next offensive opportunity was short-lived when they coughed up the ball on the first play and Quantico recovered the miscue on the Colonels' 25.
The Warriors drive stalled after eight plays and they missed a 20-yard field goal attempt.
The Colonels' offensive opportunity chance with 2:04 remaining on the game clock, but after gaining a first down on a Duklis to Gunter 15-yard completion at their own 37, Duklis' last pass of the game was intercepted by Lemons.
With 1:27 remaining, Quantico lost a bit of yardage, then took a knee and the 23-13 victory.
Lemons led all rushers with 108 yards on 24 attempts, nearly equaling the Colonels' total of 110, the majority of which were contributed by Holt's 65 yards on six rushes.
MMA scorched Quantico in last year's season opener, 36-0.
"[Our turnaround] started with scoring just before the half," Warriors coach Mike Green said. "It was about achieving something. We were within a few points of taking the lead and I said, 'After halftime, we gotta come back and we have to get a touchdown. A touchdown will put us up.'
"And it did. We went up by four points. We scored both two-point conversions. Once we had the lead, I thought we could keep it."