FOOTBALL: Holding On: Despite turnovers, Dragons hold off East in opener

It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win.

Warren overcame six turnovers to down the visiting East Warriors, 21-20, in a non-region game Friday night at War Memorial Field.

“Our kids never quit,” said Warren coach Greg Latimer, the former Warren standout who picked up his first win as a head coach in the 2013 opener. “Even with the turnovers, they kept coming back and coming back. I was very pleased with their effort.”

East put the Dragons on the ropes early when running back Dairus Davis found the end zone from 11 yards out, but a botched snap on the extra point attempt held the Warriors to a 6-0 advantage after one.

After struggling to move the ball in the first quarter, Warren took advantage of a couple East penalties and capped off a scoring drive with a 31-yard pass from D.J. Fehlman to Ryan Shattuck. Shattuck nailed the extra point – his first of three on the night – to give his team a 7-6 lead.

The Warriors weren’t about to go quietly, as Tavaray Carr broke off a 14-yard run for a score, and it looked as if East would take a five-point lead into the half.

Warren had other plans.

A fourth-and-short attempt was snuffed out by Fehlman, who brought down East quarterback Jarel Nelson behind the line of scrimmage to give the Dragons the ball in East territory.

With under a minute remaining, Latimer broke into his bag of tricks and called for the hook and ladder. Fehlman took the snap and fired a screen pass to Shattuck, who lateraled to Luke Wortman for a 26-yard gain.

After a quick timeout, East was hit with a pass interference call, giving Warren the ball on the Warriors’ 11-yard line. Once again the Dragons took advantage of the free yardage when Fehlman rolled out and found new receiver Tanner Stanz in the corner of the end zone, and Shattuck tacked on another extra point to give Warren a 14-12 lead at the half.

Fehlman and Stanz picked up where they left off in the third with their second touchdown connection for what would be the last Dragons’ score of the night.

East found the end zone one more time on a 4-yard burst from Davis early in the fourth quarter, but it was all defense from that point on as the Dragons forced a punt and a turnover on downs to secure the win.

Fehlman finished the night with nine of 13 completed passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 38 yards on the ground. Cody Gunn ran for 54 yards on 12 carries, and Wortman ran the ball nine times for 48 yards.

The Dragons defense held the Warriors to 162 total yards, forcing three turnovers on downs and causing six fumbles, though they were unable to come up with a recovery.

Warren will go for win number two next Friday night when they travel to Clarion-Limestone for a non-region game against the Lions from District 9.

“We have to improve on tonight,” said Latimer. “We need to hold onto the ball, cut down our turnovers, and do a better job of taking advantage of theirs.”