SNOHOMISH – The Everett Hawks faced an opponent in last Saturday’s af2 season opener for which they had no answer: Themselves.
The Hawks were their own worst enemy during a 61-30 loss to Tulsa, a team they dominated in total yards (244-123) and first downs (18-11). But five turnovers and 18 penalties negated Everett’s statistical advantage.
“Nobody can beat us except us and that’s exactly what we did,” lamented Everett coach Cedric Walker who had the Hawks back hard at work Tuesday at the Snohomish Indoor Soccer Dome. “From the coaching staff on down, we just didn’t get the job done.”
Three of Everett’s turnovers resulted directly in Tulsa touchdowns, including two on interception returns and another on a fumble return.
Five Everett touchdowns – four on pass plays and a LaMonte Jones kickoff return – were negated by penalties.
Another flag wiped out a long run by Phil Goodman that would have set-up a first down at the Tulsa 1-yard line.
The worst of it occurred in a nightmarish first quarter.
Quarterback Ben Bowling, returning to Tulsa where he was the backup the previous three seasons, threw an interception to Delenell Reid on the first play from scrimmage, which resulted in a Talons score. On Everett’s next possession, Bowling threw four straight incomplete passes. Tulsa took possession at the Hawks’ 3-yard line and scored two plays later for a 14-0 lead. Bowling went 0-for-3 passing on Everett’s next series.
After the Talons kicked a field goal, Everett got the ball back, but on a first down play Bowling fumbled and Tulsa’s Terrance Carter picked up the ball at midfield and rumbled 25 yards for a score to cast the Hawks into a 24-0 hole.
Starting late in the first quarter, Bowling split time with rookie reserve Jason Campbell (Arkansas Tech) for the remainder of a game in which the Hawks fell behind 45-6 by early in the third quarter.
“I think Ben going back to Tulsa … it was just a little overwhelming,” Walker said. “Maybe he was trying to do too much … He just had a bad game.”
Campbell (15-for-25 for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception) was somewhat more effective than Bowling (9-for-25, 110 yards, one TD), but Bowling did regroup somewhat after the disastrous first quarter.
“Ben’s still our guy,” Walker said. “But, the gap has closed. Jason came in and did a great job … we found out we’ve got another guy who can play.”
With regard to the excessive penalties, Walker took the blame.
“We weren’t disciplined and that’s on me,” Walker said. “That won’t happen again.”
Offensive line shines: One area of unexpected strength came from the offensive line – led by Asora Tuia’ana, Kai Ziegler and Chuck Jones – which provided ample protection and allowed only one sack.
“Going in that was an area of concern,” Walker said. “Asora played a great game and the O-line just blocked their butts off.”
No quit: After trailing by 39 points, Everett climbed within 48-30 on Campbell’s 10-yard TD toss to LaMonte Jones (12 catches, 91 yards, 166 yards total offense) with 7:05 remaining in Saturday’s game.
Fullback Vai Notoa aided the comeback bid with six carries for 26 yards and a pair of 2-yard TD runs.
“We found out we’ve got some guys with some fight in them,” Walker said. “But, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I’m glad we’ve got that out of our system.”
Defense must improve: The Hawks had a porous pass defense against Tulsa with three blown coverages resulting directly in touchdowns.
“When we had chances to make plays in the secondary we just didn’t make the plays,” Walker said. “My secondary is a work in progress, but our defense in general has a long ways to go.”
Linebacker Markus Mitchell recorded a sack, but otherwise Everett generated little pass rush. Walker said the return of DE Van Brown, who missed the opener with a nagging groin injury, will help in Saturday’s game at Central Valley.
“We need some push,” Walker said.