BRISTOL - The St. Paul football team doesn‚Äôt fool opposing defenses.
Coming into their game against Derby, the Falcons had been doing what they do best, run the football.
Against the Red Raiders, St. Paul finished with 527 rushing yards en route to a 42-34 victory.
With Kevin Ashworth running the wishbone, the confidence the team has in him is at an all-time high, as he is becoming a leader on the field and reading defenses throughout the game.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a heck of an athlete,‚ÄĚ St. Paul head coach Jude Kelly said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a smart [offensive player] and he understands the game. He knows what he has to do. He has the whole field under control and he‚Äôs like a coach out there.‚ÄĚ
While the end result was positive for the Falcons, they struggled with ball control, especially in the first half, with three turnovers.
However, after each fumble St. Paul bounced back.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs just resiliency in general,‚ÄĚ Falcons running back Damien Rabis said. ‚ÄúAs a football player you just need to think of the next play and say, ‚Äėwhat can I do to make it up for my team to make this better?‚Äô I kept it in my head that I have to do it for my team.‚ÄĚ
After Derby came back to tie the game at 34, Ashworth and the offense got the ball with under three minutes remaining in the game. He ripped off a 35-yard run to set up St. Paul in great field position.
With some defensive confusion, Ashworth knew he had the Red Raiders‚Äô defense right where he wanted them.
He made a perfect pitch to Rabis and with a strong block on the outside, no Derby player had a shot to bring Rabis down.
‚ÄúEvery defense is mixing it up on us, but down to the wire I look to see what the weakness is and I try to exploit it,‚ÄĚ Ashworth said. ‚ÄúThey were bringing guys out, but only had one guy between me and Rabis, so as soon as I made the read if they could get Rabis or not I pitched the ball [to him].‚ÄĚ
The offense did what it has been doing all season and other than the turnovers in the first half, it was another strong performance.
Defensively, it was more of the same for the Falcons.
After having 115 rushing yards in the first half, the Red Raiders had just three rushing yards in the second.
While that is a big difference, Derby figured out how to attack St. Paul - through the air.
Red Raiders quarterback Christopher Oliwa finished the game with 248 passing yards and three touchdowns.
In the second half, Oliwa had his way and the Derby receivers consistently beat St. Paul cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage.
Stopping the pass continued to be a problem for the Falcons‚Äô defense.
‚ÄúDefensively, I thought we played really well,‚ÄĚ Kelly said. ‚ÄúWe gave up some big plays. They had some good athletes that had speed and the quarterback threw the ball on target. They made some plays and that‚Äôs an area that we need to try and improve on.‚ÄĚ
Improving on the pass defense will be crucial for the Falcons as the season moves on and the schedule gets tougher.
Controlling the ground game offensively will be the recipe for success for St. Paul, as it has during the first four games.
The offseason has played a big role in the success of the Falcons offense.
‚ÄúWe work all summer most of the spring and [the] four weeks before the season are just pure hell for us, but after all that work we get into good shape and we‚Äôre a team that can put it together and get all the gas out of our tanks when we need it.‚ÄĚ
Off to a 4-0 start to begin the season, St. Paul has work to do, but the early season success and close game wins bode well for the Falcons moving forward.
‚ÄúThis is by far the most confident St. Paul group I‚Äôve ever been part of,‚ÄĚ lineman Dominc Aiello said. ‚ÄúWe have that mindset that we know we‚Äôre going to win we just have to find a way to do it.‚ÄĚ
Dan Orencole can be reached at¬†860-973-1811 or¬† firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @OrencoleDan