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Turnovers plague Drake in Mercer defeat

Story by Mike Wendlandt

Photo by Cameron Johnson

fball_johnsonBW-w2000-h2000The chase for a third straight Pioneer Football League  championship started on a rough note Saturday afternoon, as Mercer defeated the Bulldogs 31-17 in Macon, GA.

Drake, despite trailing 17-0 at one point, came back and brought the game to within seven, but ultimately, seven turnovers spelled an end for the comeback effort.

Offensively, Drake outgained its Mercer counterparts, but four interceptions from junior quarterback Andy Rice, as well as three fumbles from Rice and running back Gary Scott Jr.

Three of the turnovers occurred in Mercer territory, which led to a constant momentum shift throughout the game.

“Sometimes that’s just a result of the little things, and a football team has to be disciplined with the little things. When you face a good football team, those things are exposed,” head coach Chris Creighton said.

Taking away the turnovers, the offense’s stats are respectable. Rice threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns, completing 21-of-34 passes.

Graham Butler led the receivers with 72 yards on seven catches as well as a touchdown. The other score went to senior Nick Rosa, who added 90 yards receiving.

Defensively, John Hugunin led the way again with 10 tackles, with two of them for a loss. Sean Conerty added a sack for the Bulldogs, and cornerback Dustin Davis had his second interception of the season.

The first quarter looked incredibly promising as Drake moved the ball at will down to the Mercer 21 on the first drive of the game but Scott fumbled.

Later on, a Rice interception led to the first points of the game, a field goal by Mercer.

The game went like that for most of the first half, including a 44-yard touchdown run by Mercer quarterback John Russ and an interception return on a tipped ball that gave Mercer a 17-0 lead.

Drake came back before halftime on a 67-yard pass from Rice to Rosa to give Drake its first points of the game.

In the second half, Russ scred from one yard out, but Drake came roaring back on a seven-yard pass from Rice to Butler and a field goal from freshman Ben Tesson to bring the game to within seven points.

But less than a minute later, Mercer put the game away with a deep pass to Josh Jones that gave the final margin of victory.

Drake fell to 1-3 on the season and 0-1 in conference play.

Mercer, a startup program in the PFL for the first time, moves to 4-0 and 1-0 in conference play.

Drake comes back home to face perennial power Jacksonville next Saturday at 1 p.m.


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