By: Jeff Doke
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
To put it mildly, the 2021 season opener for the Frederica Knights was a mixed bag.
On the plus side, the Knights were victorious, defeating their longtime rivals, the Valwood Valiants to the tune of 27-6.
On the downside, the already short-staffed team suffered a significant injury with starting quarterback Thomas Veal breaking his non-throwing arm.
The game started with a long drive from the visiting Valiants. Their opening drive covered 46 yards, notched three first downs, and ate almost half of the quarter off the clock.
The Knights defense bent but didn’t break, and the drive ended on the first of several bad snaps going over the head of the Valwood quarterback.
WR/DB Bryce “Ice” Reilly, who gave the Frederica faithful a present playing on his birthday, made his presence known early & often on the opening drive with his first three tackles of the night. He would at least double that total by the end of the game, as well as tacking on a fumble recovery, an interception, and a touchdown reception. Happy birthday, indeed!
Momentum was difficult to establish early, with the two squads swapping 3 & out drives and a 2 & out from Frederica ending on an interception.
Valwood got on the board first with a 40-yard drive, culminating with a 3-yard QB sneak on the third play of the second quarter.
After that, it became the Jordan Triplett show.
After a solid 13 yd kick return from freshman Hayes Carter, Triplett broke off his first big run of the night, scampering 33 yards to set up a 23-yard touchdown pass four plays later on 4th down from Veal to Triplett, putting the Knights in the lead for good, 7-6
By the end of the half, “The River” Jordan had put up 88 yards on the ground, and Veal had thrown a TD and an INT. Sophomore DL Hamp Thompson evened the turnovers at one apiece with a strip sack in the final moments of the 2nd Quarter.
The first drive after the half saw the return of the “Cherokee & Apache” wildcat formations and a steady stream of Jordan Triplett runs. The 12-play drive would burn more than half of the quarter, Triplett would add another 40 yards to his total, and Veal tossed his second TD of the night, this time to Bryce Reilly.
The next two Valwood drives in the 3rd would end in fumbles, recovered by Reilly and Veal respectively.
To start the 4th, Valwood was stringing together their first extended drive since the 1st. An interception by Reilly and stacked penalties for unnecessary roughness & unsportsmanlike conduct ended that and set the Knights up at the Valwood 35-yard line.
Two runs from Veal and five from Triplett led to the final score of the night, a nimble 4-yard run thru traffic from #4.
Unofficially, Jordan Triplett had 176 yards on the ground with two TD runs and one TD reception for 23 yards.
Before the injury late in the 4th, Thomas Veal had thrown for two TDs on a mere 35 yards, and had added a fumble recovery on defense.
The injury to his non-throwing arm will be further assessed, but initial speculation is that it will cost the senior 6 weeks of recovery time. That, more than anything is the big takeaway from the night.
With Coach Derrick’s squad coming into the game with only 21 players dressed, the loss of Veal will be noticeable and how Coach Derrick and his staff adapt will be a challenge to say the least.
Albeit a challenge they have overcome before.