YALE – It was a slow start for the Yale Bulldogs as they began their season on the backfoot against Summit Christian Academy.
Quarterback Wyatt Austin of Summit Christian Academy capped off the opening drive of the contest with a 20-yard touchdown scamper, the first of the two rushing scores he had on the night.
The Yale offense would struggle to score for most of the night after opening the game with an aggressive onside kick decision. The game would finish as a 36-14 defeat for the inexperienced Bulldogs, while showing coach Johnny Ray what his young team can do against high school athletes. Ray was understanding of the challenges his players faced in the opener.
“We’re a really young team, and so we are making young guy mistakes,” Ray said. “I don’t blame the quarterback. It’s just growing pains. They’re having to learn where to go.”
The momentum was turning in favor of the Bulldogs in the moments leading up to halftime. The Yale defense had found its groove with a few stops leading up to the halftime whistle, and had even forced an interception from Austin in the dying moments of the half.
But the momentum would be snatched away in a hurry.
With the final play of the half, Yale quarterback De’Sean Richey would throw an interception to Dennis Hatley, who returned the pass for a touchdown. Ray explained the impact that the play would have on the team during halftime.
“They were deflated,” Ray said. “They were deflated when they were in halftime and I just told them ‘Hey, you can’t let that bother you, you’ve got to go on.’”
At halftime, Bulldog running back Jacob Wilson would take it upon himself to step up, as Yale trailed 22-0 at the half. Wilson would finish with 61 yards on 10 carries to give the Bulldogs a much-needed jolt of energy in the second half. Wilson would explain the approach that was taken at halftime to keep the team engaged.
“We had to keep our positivity up,” Wilson said. “We all couldn’t get down on ourselves. Really, I stepped up my game because I knew I had to play my part.”
Yale would match the 14 points Summit Christian Academy scored after halftime in part because of the message coach Ray gave the team.
Wilson also improved his performance due to the Yale offensive line beginning to get a push after halftime. The running back had high praise for the freshmen who stepped up and made more space around the line of scrimmage.
“I think they did really good,” Wilson said. “I think we started blocking a lot better in the second half because we broke in a lot more runs which also played a big part of settling in.”
The blocking would play a major role in the Bulldogs game plan, so much so that the Bulldogs would only throw the ball seven times throughout the game.
“I thought overall in the second half we did a little better offensively on going back to basics and refocusing those kids.” Ray said. “They just needed to be refocused after half.”