In the first game of the season, the Patriots, ranked sixth in the nation by USA Today, fell short of expectations and lost to the Booker T. Washington Tornadoes, ranked eighth, by a score of 27-7.
Both offenses started off slowly. The Patriots and Tornadoes both turned the ball over on downs on their first possessions, and the teams were tied 0-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Patriots’ first possession in the second quarter led to points, but for the wrong team. The Tornadoes’ defensive line pressured senior quarterback Jason Brown in the pocket, and Brown threw the ball away. His pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, making the score 7-0 in favor of Booker T. Washington.
After the pick-six, the Patriots never found their groove offensively. They punted on their next four possessions. The Patriots’ last four possessions resulted in two fumbles, one punt and a touchdown to senior receiver Dontavius Butler.
In the third quarter, the Tornadoes increased their lead. The Tornadoes scored a rushing and passing touchdown, increasing the lead to 20-0. Sophomore quarterback Daniel Richardson threw a bullet to senior wide receiver DeAndre Williams for Richardson’s second touchdown of the night. At 27-0, the game was essentially over.
The Patriots showed an unfortunate lack of discipline. They committed 13 penalties, seven of which were personal fouls. These penalties dug the Patriots into holes they could not climb out of and awarded the Tornadoes with countless opportunities to score.
A long run by Brown in the first quarter was called back due to a block in the back, and a punt return for a touchdown by junior cornerback Pat Surtain Jr. in the fourth quarter yielded the same result. The Patriots were called for five late hits, bailing the Tornadoes out time and time again.
“You can’t play for me like that,” Coach Pat Surtain said in a post-game address to the team. “For us to come out there and behave like that, that’s unacceptable. It will not happen again.”
The Patriots’ offense also appeared shaky. The Patriots could not salvage any yards on the ground. Brown and junior running backs Jordan Johnson and Abraham Alce struggled against a challenging Booker T. Washington defense.
During the fourth quarter, the Patriots improved their play. Brown executed a perfectly placed fade to Butler in the corner of the end zone, giving the Patriots their first and only points. On the last drive of the game, Brown connected with junior wide receiver Anthony Schwartz on a long pass. On a botched snap soon after, the Tornadoes recovered and ran out the clock.
The Patriots’ offensive line boasts seniors Kai-Leon Herbert and T.J. Slaton, two players in the ESPN 300 for the class of 2017. However, it was still underwhelming. It constantly allowed the Tornadoes’ defensive line to pressure Brown, leading once to an interception and a touchdown for the Tornadoes, and stop the Patriots’ run game.
The Patriots’ next game, which will be televised on ESPN, will be Aug. 27 in Georgia against Colquitt County at 8 p.m. They will play for the first time at Heritage Field during the regular season against Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.