Despite loss, Freedom football shows promise in first game

Devin Daley, Managing Editor

The Freedom Bulldogs may have lost their opening game to the Hopewell Vikings by a score of 36-24, however, like in most situations, the scoreline does not tell the whole story here. Throughout the majority of the game, Freedom faced only a single possession deficit to the Vikings, who are a AAA team. For a team that has struggled over the past few years, being able to stick with a team who will be playing a class above you in the coming season is a big positive. Questions of whether or not the defense could be as good as they were last year, whether Sophomore Zach Rosa would be ready to step into the starting quarterback role this year and who would end up being the Bulldogs’ biggest impact player, were all given preliminary answers in this first game of the season.

As for the first question of the Freedom’s defense’s ability to limit their opponent’s offense, the defense responded with a solid effort, although the defense can certainly be improved. The defense gave up 36 points to the Vikings offense as well as 346 yards of total offense. Although both of these numbers seem a bit high, it should be noted that this is the team’s first game of the season, so some kinks should be expected.

One of the kinks were penalties in third and fourth down situations that extended drives for Hopewell. The positive here is that if these penalties can be eliminated, this defense can be a huge part of the team’s success this year. Another positive is that the defense forced two turnovers (both interceptions), which cancelled out the two turnovers that Freedom gave up. This will be a key to the Bulldogs’ success this year, as it will be imperative that they keep their turnover differential to at least even, if not positive.

Any question of Rosa’s abilities as a young and mostly inexperienced Quarterback were answered Friday night when he completed 10 of his 25 passes. With a 40 percent completion rate, he passed for 190 yards, as well as two touchdowns against Hopewell. Rosa also threw two interceptions; however, with one of them coming off of a tipped ball, those turnovers did not prove to be all that concerning.

The biggest issue that Rosa had was that he was forcing passes to Senior Nick Henderson, even when Henderson wasn’t necessarily open. Although Henderson rewarded his QB by making a few impressive catches, Rosa will need to look to complete more passes to other receivers (Junior Michael Muron was the only other Freedom player with a catch) in order to establish other players as threats to take double coverages off of Henderson. This will give him other options if teams commit to completely taking Henderson away from each play.

The final question was who would become Freedom’s go-to player in situations where they need a big play. The answer came in Henderson’s nine catches, 187 yards and two touchdowns. Numbers like this will be hard for him to replicate on a weekly basis; however, last night was a preview of the type of performance that Henderson has the ability to deliver. In addition to his impact on offense, Henderson also had two interceptions, as well as an onside kick recovery that was taken away by a catcher’s interference call (have yet to figure out what that means).

Overall, from the first game, it’s evident that this Freedom team is different from the team’s of years’ past and should be able to compete in their new section.