During the first year at Van Horn, head football coach William Harris had to teach a young and inexperienced team how to play the game.
Now that he’s in his second year, not only does his team know how to play, but it learned to win as it began the season 3-1. Now there is something else Harris said he needs to turn his attention to when teaching his players – finishing games.
For the third time this season, the Falcons were unable to hang onto a lead. Once ahead of host University Academy 13-0 Saturday, the Falcons (3-5) surrendered 14 unanswered points and fell 14-13, their third one-point loss in their last four games and their fourth in a row.
A missed extra point and the inability to capitalize on opportunities in the second half led to Van Horn’s undoing, and the loss spoiled a 210-yard rushing day for Falcons running back Izaiah Cozey.
“I’ve been telling the kids the last four weeks, we just have to finish,” Harris said. “We’re not finishing. We didn’t score in the second half.
“I could have been the quarterback, and we still should have won with Izaiah rushing for 210 yards if we do what we’re supposed to do.”
The senior running back echoed his coach's’ sentiments.
Added Cozey: “We got comfortable with the lead and we started slacking. They caught us sleeping.”
Van Horn got off to a fast start when it scored on its first drive when Cozey exploded for a 55-yard jaunt up the middle in which he stiff-armed a defender and ran it in for a 6-0 lead. Falcons kicker Tanner Smith missed the extra point wide right.
At the 11:45 mark in the second, on fourth-and-9 from the Gryphons’ 14, quarterback Terrion Seddens floated a 13-yard pass to Evan Neal to set up a 1-yard Cozy TD to make it 13-0.
A couple of possessions later, the Falcons snapped the ball over the head of Smith on a punt attempt, allowing University Academy to recover the ball at the Falcon 14.
A pair of sacks and a penalty drove the Gryphons back to the 28. However, on a third-and-20, quarterback Jaylin Whitelaw heaved the ball up for his 6-foot-3 receiver Ryan Pritchard, who caught it in front of Neal and waltzed into the end zone to cut it to 13-6 after a failed conversion.
The Falcons outgained University Academy 230-76 in the first half, but the final 24 minutes were a much different story as Van Horn struggled to get the offense going.
Van Horn’s Jason Godfrey recovered a fumble from Pritchard early in the third at the University Academy 43 but the Falcons were unable to do anything with the drive.
The Gryphons made them pay when Whitelaw once again connected with Pritchard on a long pass. Pritchard, who had 143 yards receiving on six receptions, caught the ball at the Van Horn 40, broke a tackle and finished off an 86-yard catch-and-run for a TD. He also caught the ball on a fade route for a two-point conversion to take the lead.
“We knew watching film that he was going to be a handful for us,” Harris said of Pritchard. “We’ve been trying to improve on some things in the secondary, so I knew it would be tough for us. He has that size where you can throw it up to him and he can go get it.”
On the Falcons’ next drive, they made it to the University Academy 14, but Cozey was stuffed on a fourth and 1, resulting in a turnover on downs.
Van Horn had two more drives to take the lead but a Cozey fumble and penalties cost it a chance to win the game despite entering Gryphon territory twice, once on an interception return by Treyvian Page to the Gryphon 32.