The Dutch Fork football team hadn’t lost two straight football games in more than seven years and kept that streak intact Thursday night.
The Silver Foxes overcame a halftime deficit to defeat Hough (NC), 27-24, on Thursday in a game part of Charlotte’s Kickoff Night at Memorial Stadium.
Dutch Fork lost its final game of the 2021 season to Gaffney in the Class 5A state championship. That snapped the Silver Foxes’ 61-game unbeaten streak and denied them their sixth straight championship.
“I’m always in a sprint but this team needs to realize that it is a marathon,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said. “We don’t need to implode right now, win, lose or draw against this tough schedule. We need to keep learning, keep learning, do good in the region and we owe some people in the playoffs.”
Dutch Fork is playing its toughest schedule in Knotts’ more than a decade as coach with future opponents like Spartanburg and out-of-state foes in Creekside (Ga.) and nationally-ranked St. Frances (Md.).
Quarterback Aliam Appler threw for a touchdown and also ran for one. Running back Jarvis Green had two scores, including a 40-yard kickoff on an onside kick late in the fourth quarter.
Offensive might be a work in progress
Outside of Green, Dutch Fork lacks the proven playmakers fans have grown accustomed to seeing over the years with the likes of Bobby Irby, Bryce Thompson, Jalin Hyatt and Elijah Spencer at receiver.
Junior Jacob Hamilton hopes to transition into that role and had a strong game. He had a 33-yard touchdown catch in the first half and a big 33-yard catch on third down that led to a Silver Foxes’ touchdown in the fourth.
“We got to step up big,” Hamilton said. “Antonio made big-time plays and there is no one like him. So losing him is big but what you got to do about it. You have to step up and play.”
Appler, who was making his first start at quarterback, showed flashes and made a couple big completions. He also had a nice touchdown run in the fourth quarter and will be counted to run the ball a lot this season.
Silver Foxes not afraid to get creative
Knotts showed he wasn’t afraid to get creative in the opener with his play-calling.
With the offense struggling after the first two drives, he inserted safety Landon Danley as the quarterback in the wildcat formation. Danley came on a few other times to run it and finished with 32 yards rushing.
The Silver Foxes also executed a double pass as Hamilton hit Matthew Walker for a 49-yard gain.
Defense will be a force this year
The Dutch Fork defense should be strong again and came up big early in the game when Hough had good field position after a short punt on the opening drive and then after a fumble.
The Silver Foxes held the Huskies to a pair of field goals on that drive and gave them confidence.
“Our defense played lights out until we got tired at the end,” Knotts said.
Defensive back Ja’Von Mack picked off UNC commit Tad Hudson twice in the game. The Silver Foxes’ defensive line also was able to put pressure on Hudson in the second half with pressure from Dakota Watson, John Buetow, AJ Johnson and Terrance Wells.
Chandler Perry, who played linebacker and in the secondary, tied for team high in tackles with nine along with Tyler Jones.
H - Nolan Houser 38 FG, 8:09
H - Nolan Hauser 27 FG, 4:08
DF - Hamilton 33 pass from Appler (Welch kick), 0:50
H - Hauser 48 FG, 6:34
DF - Green 1 run (Welch kick)
DF - Appler 34 run (Welch kick), 5:36
H - JT Smith 3 run (Houser kick), 2:17
DF - Green 40 kickoff return (pass failed), 2:11
H - Funderburk 6 pass from Hudson (Funderburk pass from Hufson), 0’:25
RUSHING - DF: Green 19-69; Danley 3-32; Appler 8-27. H: Smith 16-65; Funderburk 1-5.
PASSING - DF: Appler 14-23-0 123; Hamilton 1-1-0 49. H: Hudson 24-37-2 224
RECEIVING - DF: Hamilton 6-90; Jones 4-27; Green 4-6; Walker 1-49. H: Smith 6-64; Dossey 6-61; Funderburk 5-36; Osborne 5-31