By Jeff Odom
The days leading up to Freedom football coach Todd Donohoe’s debut were anything but smooth.
The game itself was no better.
Heavy rain throughout the week soaked the Patriots’ field, making it unplayable and forcing the kickoff classic preseason game to be moved to their opponent’s field, a gridiron Donohoe is very familiar with.
The contest was played at Strawberry Crest, a program Donohoe started in 2009 and led for two years. The Chargers showed no let-up in a 29-0 shutout against the Patriots and their former coach Aug. 24.
“We’ve got a lot of talented players here, we just did not play up to our potential, that’s for sure,” Donohoe said. “It’s not necessarily one thing; it’s a combination of a lot of things we definitely got to get better at if we’re going to be where we want to be.”
Donohoe said returning to his former school for the first time since stepping down in 2010 had nothing to do with how the team played.
“We just got outplayed and out-coached, and I give (Strawberry Crest) credit for that,” Donohoe said. “It will only get better from here because there’s a lot of talent on this team, and I do believe in these kids.”
Freedom’s opening drive told the tale of the contest as four penalties stuck the team 42 yards behind the first down marker. The Chargers pounced on the opening and never looked back.
After the Patriots failed to convert the fourth-and-42, Strawberry Crest quarterback Tristan Hyde led his offense down the field. The drive was capped off by a seven-yard completion over the middle to Colby Williams for the game’s first touchdown.
Strawberry Crest forced Freedom to punt from its own end zone on the next drive. The snap sailed over the head of punter Alec Grubbs to give the Chargers two more points on a safety. Strawberry Crest added another score just 12 seconds later on the ensuing kickoff, which was returned 60 yards by Josh Hyde.
Patriots starting quarterback Taylor King and the offense struggled to move the ball. The junior signal caller gave up two turnovers in the red zone, throwing an interception and fumbling on a fourth-and-1.
The lone bright spot for Freedom came in the fourth quarter when junior linebacker Josh Callazo intercepted a pass in Strawberry Crest territory, but the Patriots could not turn it into points. They finished the contest with 12 penalties.
Senior defensive back/running back Nate Godwin said there were too many missed chances.
“We just got to work,” Godwin said. “We beat ourself tonight, because I don’t think they were a better squad at all. We need to focus on everything and just come out and compete.”
Donohoe added, “Obviously we’re going to try and not let (those penalties) happen again. I mean I don’t think anybody wants to commit penalties, and we as a staff have to try and correct it.”
Freedom opens the regular season at home on Sept. 1 against Durant at 7:30 p.m.