Lancaster can’t get out of its own way in 28-7 loss to Central Crossing

Lancaster's Brendon Simcox (5) runs the ball downfield against Central Crossing in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.
Lancaster's Brendon Simcox (5) runs the ball downfield against Central Crossing in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.

GROVE CITY – It was a frustrating night for the Lancaster football team, to say the least.

Every time the Golden Gales seemed to be moving in a positive direction, they would shoot themselves in the foot with a costly penalty or a turnover Friday night during their 28-7 Ohio Capital Conference-Buckeye Division loss at Central Crossing.

Even though they trailed 15-7 at halftime, the Gales had several opportunities to get right back in the game, especially in the third quarter, and each time they looked as if they might seize control, they would go backward.

Lancaster's David Roby (15) tries to evade the Central Crossing defense as he gains yardage on a punt return in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.
Lancaster's David Roby (15) tries to evade the Central Crossing defense as he gains yardage on a punt return in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.

“We would move the ball, then we would have a penalty, we would move the ball, then a penalty, and you just can’t do that,” Lancaster coach Bryan Schoonover said. “We give up a score on special teams, you can’t do it that. It just seemed like every time we would get something going, we would have a penalty and it is frustrating. We have to do better.”

Lancaster finished with 15 penalties for 135 yards, and more times than not, they seemed to always come at the wrong time.

Offensively, the Gales finished with 218 total yards, and Lancaster’s defense was solid for the most part by only allowing the Comets 247 total yards. In the final minute, Lancaster quarterback Trace Van Gundy threw a perfect pass down the right sideline to Dylan Byrd, who made a nice over-the-shoulder catch, but the celebration didn’t last long because it was called back because of a holding penalty.

The Gales’ defense forced three turnovers but was only able to capitalize on one of them.

The Gales struggled throughout the game on third down conversion attempts, going just 2-for14, and again, a lot of times, they were set back because of a penalty and would have third-and-long. Lancaster punted seven times, and just could never get into any rhythm, offensively, because of all the penalties.

Lancaster's Gavin Smith (32) tries to block a pass from Central Crossing quarterback in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.
Lancaster's Gavin Smith (32) tries to block a pass from Central Crossing quarterback in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.

Central Crossing capitalized on a Lancaster fumble and turned it into a touchdown, and the Gales gave up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown.

The Comets began the game with an impressive 18-play drive where they converted two fourth downs and ate up all but 1:32 of the first quarter. The Gales’ defense bent but didn’t break as they were able to get a stop on third down, thanks to a sack from Kody Hoffman.

When the Gales finally had the ball for the first time, they picked up 24 yards on three rushes, but the drive was halted on a holding penalty and the Gales were eventually forced to punt, and that would be the theme for the rest of the night.

Lancaster's Tyler Holland (12) runs the ball downfield against Central Crossing in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.
Lancaster's Tyler Holland (12) runs the ball downfield against Central Crossing in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.

Central Crossing would score the next time it had the ball as Malik Kamar scampered in from 14 yards out, giving the Comets a 7-0 lead with 7:05 left in the first half.

A 15-yard penalty and an illegal procedure penalty would stall the Gales’ next drive and they were forced to punt it away, and Kamar would return it 78 yards for a score, and the Comets faked the PAT and scored on a pass to give them a 15-0 advantage with 5:51 left in the first half.

Lancaster finally caught a break when they forced a fumble deep in the Comets’ territory and took advantage of the miscue as Brendon Simcox, who led the Gales with 78 yards rushing on 12 carries, scored on an 8-yard touchdown run with only 37 seconds left in the first half to cut Central Crossing’s lead to 15-7 at halftime.

Things went from bad to worse in the second half for the Gales. After gaining a first down on their opening drive of the second half, the offense was set back with a holding penalty and then they fumbled on the next play, giving the Comets the ball at Lancaster’s 12-yard line.

Lancaster quarterback Trace VanGundy (8) hands the ball off against Central Crossing in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.
Lancaster quarterback Trace VanGundy (8) hands the ball off against Central Crossing in varsity boys football action at Central Crossing High School on Sept. 23, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.

Three plays later Central Crossing scored on an 8-yard touchdown run from quarterback Kolin Hendricks with 9:02 left in the third quarter as the Comets pushed the lead to 21-7.

Lancaster had the ball at the Comets’ 27-yard line late in the third quarter, but back-to-back false start penalties moved the ball back and they failed to do anything positive with the excellent field position. Lancaster had the ball three more times inside the Comets’ 40-yard line, but penalties would turn out to kill promising drives each time.

Central Crossing closed out the scoring with 8:39 remaining when Anthony Whatley scored on a 7-yard touchdown run.

Van Gundy passed for 73 yards, Xavier Goss finished with 46 yards on 15 carries and Byrd had three receptions for 40 yards.

Lancaster will return home next Friday when it hosts Groveport.

Tom Wilson is a sports reporter for the Lancaster Eagle Gazette. Contact him at 740-689-5150 or via email at twilson@gannett.com for comments or story tips. Follow him on Twitter @twil2323.

This article originally appeared on Lancaster Eagle-Gazette: Lancaster can’t get out of its own way in 28-7 loss to Central Crossing