Looking back may not be the best way to gauge progress, but Massac County's 2019 football opener was way more promising than last year's opener under then first year Patriot Coach Jason Roper.
Twelve minutes into last year's 53-12 loss to the DuQuoin Indians, Massac trailed 27-0 and things were over about as quickly as they had begun.
Fast forward to last Friday night. Seventeen minutes into this one, Massac County's Nate Jackson punched in a short touchdown run and Massac trailed 7-6.
After DuQuoin had put up their first touchdown in the first quarter, without a lot of resistance, the smallish Massac crowd seemed resigned to watch another rout and the opening game enthusiasm waned a bit. When Jackson hit pay dirt to close the gap to 7-6, things picked up a bit in the stands.
DuQuoin had an answer for Jackson's touchdown though in the person of Dasani Edwards, their lightning fast receiver. Quarterback Alex Zimmerman hit Edwards for a 73-yard touchdown strike and about a minute after the Pats had closed to one point, the Indians had an eight-point lead at 14-6.
From that point on though, the two teams played some pretty good football. Massac's defense stiffened considerably and the running game of Blake Baird, Jackson and Jody Dumpprope allowed the Pats to control the ball and give the defense some rest.
Massac had a couple of short drives in the second half and reached the Indian side of the field only to stall out.
DuQuoin recovered a Massac County fumble four minutes into the last frame and had a "short" field to negotiate. Zimmerman threw a six-yard touchdown strike to Braeden Pursell for DuQuoin's third and final score.
The 21-6 final was probably a pretty good overall indicator as Massac held their own against a tough Indian bunch. The long, quick-strike TD pass to Edwards after Massac's first score was definitely a punch in the mouth, but the Pats didn't lose their focus and the 14-6 score stood for a good long while.
Massac's defense bent but never really broke, and the running game showed a lot of promise.
The backfield of Baird, Dumprope, Jackson and Devin Scott combined for 175 yards rushing and a bunch of time of possession. Baird was the workhorse of the group with 109 yards on 26 attempts.
Like I said earlier, DuQuoin may not be the same team they were last year, but neither is Massac. Last year, the Pats faced the running clock early in the third quarter and this year the Pats had real hope until that last turnover and subsequent DuQuoin score.
53-12 versus 21-6, you decide. It doesn't get any easier for Massac as they host Nashville this Friday. The Hornets blew away Carlyle 64-0 in their opener last week.