Cougs fumble, stumble against Port Angeles

Mark Keel knows it's still early, and that there's plenty of time for his Central Kitsap High School football team to right itself after last Friday's 21-3 loss to Port Angeles.He also knows it'll be anything but easy - especially in the next three weeks.We've got three (tough games) in a row coming up; Gig Harbor, South Kitsap and Shelton, Keel said Monday as he started preparations for the Cougars' Friday road contest at Gig Harbor. They're all good teams.None of them are gimmes for CK's victory column in the Narrows League Bridge Division standings, which makes last weekend's division-opening loss to the Roughriders even harder to take.Our first order of business will be to take care of the ball this week against Gig Harbor, Keel said. That's a team we've given the ball up to eight times each of the last two times we've played them.Turnovers are what scuttled the Cougs against PA, too. After striking first on a 36-yard field goal by Eric Forbes, Central blew several more scoring chances in the first half and surrendered a pair of touchdowns to the Roughriders. Instead of leading at halftime, the Cougars found themselves behind 14-3.Even then, I truly believed we would go out and win the football game, said Keel. We held them on the first possession, three-and-out ... and then we fumbled the punt.After that, they basically went into stall mode, Keel said. The quarterback would walk up, they'd count off about 10 seconds and then snap the ball with about two or three seconds left on the play clock.In all, CK turned the ball over five times to a Port Angeles team that has suffered through several lean seasons, dating back to the days of the Olympic League's four-team alignment. Keel said he and his coaching staff repeatedly warned the Cougs against taking the Roughriders lightly.We talked about it all week long, but it still could've been the case, I suppose, he said.He also sited the loss of a practice day Tuesday, when after-school activities were cancelled in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the East Coast, and general anxiety about upcoming military activity, as less than helpful in the Cougs' preparation for the game.In general, the concentration that I could feel, I just didn't get a good feeling, Keel said.When the Cougs' offense wasn't shooting itself in the foot, it found the going tough against PA's defense, which kept the running back tandem of Blake Berryman and Dustin Wilson bottled up. The pair teamed for 330 rushing yards in CK's season-opening win over Battle Ground six days earlier, but was held to a combined 110.They were well prepared, and they fought hard, Keel said of the 'Riders. I told our guys that the one thing we didn't want to do was to give them hope, because then they'd start believing they could win the game.By the time they charged into the locker room at halftime with a 14-3 lead, Keel pointed out, the visitors were believers.

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