Photo by Gabriel Stovall Stockbridge wide receiver Kendarius Webster looks toward the Tiger sideline in the waning moments of its 23-0 loss to No. 5 M.L. King at Tri-Cities on Saturday.
EAST POINT — Stockbridge came into its season opener Saturday against fifth ranked M.L. King hoping to provide an immediate continuation of last year’s success.
Instead, it settled for a 23-0 loss that irritated coach Kevin Whitley, but didn’t delete his confidence.
“We just stunk it up tonight,” said Whitley entering his fourth year as the Tigers’ head coach.
“We didn’t execute and we didn’t match their physicality. We were just going through the motions for whatever reason. We were just uninterested. But it’s not a region game and it doesn’t stop us from doing what we want to do.”
What Stockbridge wanted to do Saturday was build on the success of two consecutive winning seasons, including a 9-3 campaign in 2011, complete with its first playoff win in school history.
The Tigers came into the game ranked No. 9 with returning quarterback Trent Earl who started six games last season. However, Earl was sacked six times in the game, and the M.L. King defense held Stockbridge south of 200 yards in total offense.
It was the first time Stockbridge had suffered a shutout since losing 21-0 to Eastside almost two years ago.
“I’m just glad (Earl) is still alive,” said Whitley of his oft pressured signal caller. “He got killed out there. We didn’t do anything to help him.”
Stockbridge just missed getting off to a fast start, when, on the first play of the game, Earl dropped back out of a wing T formation and threw a perfect pass over the shoulder of Kendarius Webster.
Webster was streaking down the middle of the field and had beaten his man by at least three steps, but dropped what would have been a sure touchdown.
After a scoreless first quarter, M.L. King’s Donald Clark barreled in from eight yards out on the second play of the second quarter to put the Lions up 7-0.
Stockbridge then gift-wrapped the next nine points for the Lions — first on a safety when Titus Davis snapped the ball out of the endzone on a 4th and 18 at the Tigers’ own 12 yard line.
M.L. King took the resulting 9-0 lead into halftime.
And then, after a fairly stout defensive effort by the Tigers throughout the third quarter, Earl fumbled a lateral attempt — again deep in their own territory — which was scooped up by Jeremy Tyler for an eight yard score with 2:03 left in the quarter.
The Lions would tack on another short touchdown run by Jamel Smith toward the end of regulation.
Whitley said the Lions earned much respect for the way they played, but also suggested that the Lions may not have been Stockbirdge’s stiffest opponent on Saturday.
“Today, we definitely beat ourselves,” he said. “When you play a good team you can’t help them. Everything you could do wrong we did.”
Whitley said that he and his staff would put this game behind them and begin working immediately on preparations for Friday’s tussle at Upson-Lee.
“You definitely want to correct them,” he said. “Show what they’re doing wrong, but you don’t want to demoralize them.”