BENTON HARBOR – Friday’s football game between Benton Harbor and Mattawan could best be described as a sloppy slugfest.
Amidst torrential rain and blustery wind, the Tigers battled back in the second half but came up short against the Wildcats in a 14-8 home setback.
“It wasn’t perfect and the conditions were tough but the kids played hard,” Benton Harbor coach Tom Matthews said. “We came out in the second half and played much better. We just couldn’t get the big play when we needed it.”
The first half was not kind to the Tigers, who failed to record a first down. After a scoreless first quarter, Parker Neel scored on a 2-yard run to put Mattawan (3-4) ahead 7-0. Benton Harbor quarterback Quindarius Davis threw two-first-half interceptions, including a 20-yard pick-six by John Herman to give Mattawan a 14-0 halftime lead.
Benton Harbor received the ball to start the second half and was able to move down the field with its running game. The Tigers converted two fourth-down plays on the drive, which saw Malachi Dezale punch in a 6-yard touchdown run. Benton Harbor converted a two-point conversion to cut Mattawan’s lead to 14-8 with 5:53 left in the third.
“The kids didn’t give up at halftime,” Matthews said. “Our offensive line did a great job in the second half. They made some adjustments and we made some mistakes. We did things that we normally don’t do and those cost us.”
After Ronald Roseburgh blocked his second punt of the game, Isaiah Porter picked up the ball and returned it to the Mattawan 12-yard line. Benton Harbor failed to generate yards on the drive and on 4th and 16, Davis’ pass to Kentrell Pullian fell incomplete.
With 4:14 remaining in the game, Benton Harbor recovered a Mattawan fumble and took over on the Mattawan 39. But the Tigers weren’t able to make the most of the opportunity.
On fourth and 13 with 1:41 remaining, Davis completed a short pass to Dezale, who was tackled immediately to effectively seal the game.
“You have to be able to control the line of scrimmage,” Matthews said. “They’re a very good defensive team. They’ve lost four games and three of those were to teams that were undefeated. We needed to execute and make sure we moved the ball and we weren’t able to do that consistently.”
The Wildcats outgained the Tigers 194-117 for the game. Dezale led Benton Harbor with 20 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown. Mattawan’s Parker Neel had a game-high 106 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.
The Tigers (4-3) will try for win No. 5 against Muskegon Catholic Central. Benton Harbor won last season’s matchup 41-21.
“You have to learn from this and you can’t dwell on it,” Matthews said. “We have to watch film, get better, and be ready for another great football team this week.”
Mattawan 14, Benton Harbor 8
M 0 14 0 0 – 14
BH 0 0 8 0 – 8
M – Parker Neel 22 run (kick good), 2:08.
M – John Newman 20 interception return (kick good), 1:27.
BH – Malachi Dezale 6 run (pass good), 5:33.
Total yards 120 194
Rushes-yards 37-117 35-194
Passing yards 3 0
Comp-att-int 2-6-2 0-3-0
Penalties-yards 3-15 0-0
Fumbles-recovered 2-2 4-2
Rushing – Benton Harbor: Dezale 22-57, Roseburgh 8-32, Davis 7-28. Mattawan: Neel 20-106, Michael Csom 14-65.
Passing – Benton Harbor: Davis 2-6-2. Mattawan: Jalon Jones 0-3-0.
Receiving – Benton Harbor: Dezale 1-3.
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