NEWBERRY — Emerald appears to have finally found its identity on offense, but the Vikings still haven’t been able to overcome costly fumbles and untimely penalties.
Emerald had two costly fumbles and allowed a 95-yard kickoff return in its 31-21 loss on the road to Newberry on Friday night. It was a frustrating loss for the Vikings, who put together arguably their best offensive showing of the season.
Emerald established the run early and made several personnel changes on offense. Kareem Goode took the majority of snaps at quarterback, Elias Ryans was the featured running back and Zacoyeis Elmore played at wide receiver.
Emerald rallied from an 18-point deficit and trailed by just three points late in the fourth quarter after a 2-yard run from Goode.
The Vikings’ defense, however, was unable to get off the field. Two penalties helped Newberry continue its final drive, which resulted in a 7-yard touchdown run from KJ Robinson to put the game out of reach. The Vikings fumbled a second time on their final drive of the night.
“It was a good effort tonight, and I was pleased with most things we saw,” Emerald coach Tim McMahon said. “We give up the kickoff return, which hurt bad. Couple fumbles and penalties at the wrong time, too. I think we’ve found who we are, we just can’t hurt ourselves. We don’t have a lot of margin for error.”
The Vikings continued to make strides offensively. Ryans ran for a season-high 184 yards and a touchdown, and Jaylen Foster added 71 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Goode threw the ball well in his first appearance of the season at quarterback, making two deeps throws to Elmore. He was 3-of-5 passing for 45 yards. Nathaniel Parks also saw a few snaps at quarterback and completed a pass to Damaruis Morton.
“We got downhill on people and gave ourselves a chance,” McMahon said. “(Elmore) gave us some more athleticism outside. It gives us our best chance. We’ve just got to play cleaner.”
Elmore came up with a big interception in Newberry territory during the second quarter, but Emerald fumbled on the ensuing drive.
Newberry capitalized on the takeaway after a 16-yard touchdown run from Ahmorae Wilmore.
Foster responded on the next drive for Emerald, scoring on a 4-yard run, but the special teams unit allowed a 95-yard kickoff return to Zack Chalmers just before halftime.
Fumbles have been costly for the Vikings over the past few weeks. Emerald fumbled three times in the game against Lakeside, twice against Strom Thurmond and once last week against Mid-Carolina.
Emerald’s offense was more productive and showed more consistency, but limiting the turnovers remains an area of focus as region play continues.
“We played a little cleaner tonight, and the offense helps you do that,” McMahon said. “But the kickoff return and that untimely fumble before the half was probably the difference in the game.”
Emerald 0 6 8 7 — 21
Newberry 3 14 7 7 — 31
N — Roland Garcia 36 FG
N — Ahmorae Wilmore 16 run (Garcia kick)
E — Jaylen Foster 4 run (kick fails)
N — Zack Chalmers 95 kickoff return (Garcia kick)
N — KJ Robinson 14 run (Garcia kick)
E — Elias Ryans 26 run (Ryans conversion)
E — Kareem Goode 2 run (Wells Anderson kick)
N — Robinson 7 run (Garcia kick)
Rushing — N: Ahmorae Wilmore 12-67, Zay Chalmers 11-75, OT Sims 1-0, KJ Robinson 6-36, Asaris Good 1-3; E: Elias Ryans 27-184, Zacoyeis Elmore 1-8, Jaylen Foster 14-71, Kareem Goode 3-0, Damaruis Morton 1-1
Passing — E: Goode 3-5-0-45, Nathaniel Parks 1-3-0-6; N: Zay Chalmers 6-7-1-37
Receiving — E: Elmore 3-42, Morton 1-9; N: Zack Chalmers 4-25, Robinson 2-12
Records: Emerald 1-6 (0-2 Region 3-3A); Newberry 4-3 (1-1 Region 3-3A)
Next game: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Woodruff at Emerald