Bears struggle against Warriors as conference schedule approaches

Posted 9/15/21

BEAR CREEK — There are no two ways about it: Wheatmore whupped Chatham Central real good. The score is what it was Friday night, with the Warriors winning, 39-6.

But late in the fourth quarter …

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Bears struggle against Warriors as conference schedule approaches

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BEAR CREEK — There are no two ways about it: Wheatmore whupped Chatham Central real good. The score is what it was Friday night, with the Warriors winning, 39-6.

But late in the fourth quarter of that contest, the Bears were on the verge of carrying a couple of goose eggs into the locker room.

Then Travis Crissman’s eyes got big.

“I saw the ball and went and got it, and I was just trying to get some yards,” the junior Chatham Central free safety said after the game.

He was talking about the Wheatmore pass he plucked from the chilly fall air in which Crissman returned to Wheatmore’s 18 yard line.

The clock showed 4:09. The score was 39-0, Warriors.

Chatham Central’s offense got another crack at it, putting the ball in the hands of senior running back Malachi Moore, who dashed right, dipped, dodged multiple defenders, detoured and darted down the left side of the field.

Warriors in pursuit had a good angle on him. Moore was running out of sideline, but he’d invested in enough real estate to slip into the end zone almost exactly where the goal line meets the pylon.

“Every time in the huddle I say, ‘Block. Just pick up a man,’ and they said, ‘OK,’” Moore explained. “I just had to score the ball. I saw it wasn’t open on the right. I just went back to the left.”

That kind of effort is what the Bears (0-3-1) must have heading into their first conference game of the season Friday in Burlington against Cummings High School.

“We just need to have confidence in ourselves,” Moore said. “We need to learn how to block, play as a team, don’t fuss at each other. If somebody messes up on a play, don’t get mad.”

“Our offense has got to start getting some more yards, getting first downs, moving the chains,” Crissman added.

Chatham Central’s lack of offensive production is a problem.

Teams have been able to get the Bears’ offense off the field in no time. That means players on defense for Chatham Central have less time to catch their breath, being forced to take the field as a tired bunch to try to stop the opposition from scoring the ball.

“It’s tough because you’re out there a lot of the game,” Crissman said. “(You) don’t get many breaks.”

“We didn’t give the defense an opportunity to get rest,” Chatham Central Head Coach Sherman Howze said. “What people don’t understand is we’re young.”

Wheatmore head coach Philip Yarbrough said his offensive linemen are young, too. It showed in the first half when they committed a string of penalties that kept the Warriors from capitalizing in the red zone.

“After we kind of settled down, we played really well,” Yarbrough said.

When the Warriors scored touchdowns, they always went for two-point conversions, except once. Their regular kicker was injured, and his replacements are iffy, Yarbrough said.

“We just felt like the higher-percentage play was to try to spread ‘em out and find a little pocket to throw in,” Yarbrough said.

The Bears couldn’t stop it.

Howze, fresh off of a shutout loss to North Stokes on Sept. 3, tried to fix his offensive line.

Audio recap from News + Record Correspondent John McCann

Against Wheatmore, he had some of his veterans on the defensive side of the ball also put in work for the offense, tasking them with blocking for Moore and senior quarterback Colton McKeithan. Then again, athletes playing both ways further facilitates fatigue.

“It’s a growing situation here,” Howze said. “It’s going to come. It’s going to come.”

Until then, the Bears will have to offset fatigue with moxie.

“Be competitive,” Moore implored.

That’s not some kind of pep talk. Moore is the team’s top tailback but slid under center and played quarterback until McKeithan returned Friday from concussion protocol. And there was that sequence against Wheatmore when Moore not only kicked off to the Warriors but went and laid hands on the return man to stop his progress upfield.

“He’s more than one-dimensional,” Howze said. “He’s an athletic kid, man. You’ve got to get the best out of your athletes.”

It’s exactly what Howze and his coaching staff are up against here at the midpoint of the season.

NEXT UP: Chatham Central (0-3-1) opens conference play in Burlington Friday in a 7:30 p.m. game against the Cummings Cavaliers (2-1).

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