Long Reach squeezes out 6-0 win Bhatia scores only TD to stop Blair in opener

September 07, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF


Long Reach, expected to contend for the Howard County county title, didn't look impressive, but the Lightning somehow got the job done when it counted in a 6-0 opening day victory over visiting Class 4A Montgomery Blair yesterday.

Turnovers, poor field position and penalties hobbled the

Lightning throughout the game against a Blazers squad that lost its 21st straight game.

An 8-yard touchdown catch by Willy Bhatia on a pass from quarterback Greg Matusewitch in the second quarter provided the winning margin. Bhatia had five catches for 64 yards. He was left uncovered in the far right corner on the touchdown.

The play was set up by Clarence Reid's interception at the Montgomery Blair 8-yard line following a goal line stand by the Blazers on which they stopped Long Reach on four downs from the 8.

"We made two costly mistakes, the interception and the touchdown pass," Blair coach James Short said. "On the touchdown, our defensive back forgot that we go into man-for-man coverage inside the 10-yard line and he was in a zone."

The defense, led by Devon Conwell, saved the game for Class 2A Long Reach, as it stopped Blair inside the Lightning's 20-yard line twice and at the 30-yard line twice.

"We just put in the wing-T this season and didn't have all the plays ready we needed to make things work inside the 20 because three of our starters missed practices last week," Blair's Short said. "It's been a long time since we've had opportunities. In 17 of our last 20 games we were out of the game by halftime."

Long Reach's Matusewitch completed six of seven passes for 70 yards, and the Lightning had another 144 yards on the ground, led by Reid's 42 yards. Blair had 101 yards rushing and 5 yards passing.

"We thought their quarterback was their best player -- the one that makes the plays happen," Short said. "We didn't think they could beat us on the ground, but were concerned about the pass."

Blair had a chance to win the game early in the fourth quarter after recovering a fumble at the Lightning's 29-yard line. The Blazers moved to a first down at the 16-yard line, but three plays later, a fumble was recovered by Reid, and Long Reach controlled the ball for the next 16 plays to run out the clock.

The Blazers also had a chance on their first possession of the game, following a Long Reach punt to the Lightning's 44. Blair drove to the 18, but was forced back by the Long Reach defense.

"They were a much better team than we thought," Lightning coach Pete Hughes said. "They used our own aggressiveness against us. Our strength is passing, and we couldn't open up because of poor field position."

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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