With three losses of fewer than four points this season, the Pebblebrook coaching staff knows that every possession counts. So, they opened their game Friday against visiting Campbell with designs on stealing a possession from the very start.
The Falcons recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff, marched 35 yards in a minute and a half to take an early lead and never looked back in a 37-21 win that evened their overall record and got Region 2-AAAAAAA play off to a successful start.
“We were a little rusty coming off of the bye week, so we needed a little spark,” coach Kevin Saunders said. “We just needed to get out and play a bit.”
The rust came off quickly, as Pebblebrook (3-3, 1-0) needed just four plays to punch it into the end zone after recovering the onside kick to start the game. Quarterback Marquise Cooper connected with wide receiver Sincere Street for a 7-yard score to get the Falcons on the board.
After a quick three-and-out by Campbell (2-4, 0-1), Falcons running back Tyler Thomas busted a 70-yard touchdown run on the first play of the ensuing drive to put Pebblebrook up 14-0 less than four minutes into the game.
It was the first of a handful of big runs for Thomas, who finished the game 176 yards and two scores. He also ran for a 58-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to put Pebblebrook ahead 30-7.
As a team, the Falcons ran for 325 yards and three touchdowns, the other a 1-yard run by Cooper.
“We ran the ball really well tonight,” Saunders said. “Our offensive line held up its end, (Cooper) did a great job making the reads, and Tyler Thomas, man, he’s just really good. He had a heck of a game.”
The Pebblebrook defense was suffocating in the game, as well. It allowed only 258 yards of total offense, 41 of which came on the ground, and forced three turnovers. The Falcons turned those three takeaways into 17 points on the other end.
Early in the third quarter, Campbell, trailing 20-7 at the time, fumbled the ball back to the Falcons on the opening play of its first offensive possession of the half. Pebblebrook kicked a field goal after a short six-play drive to go ahead 23-7.
After marching to the Falcons 12-yard line, Campbell quarterback Kameron Smith was intercepted in the end zone by a diving Brandon Preston. The ensuing Falcons drive lasted two plays, culminating in Thomas’ second touchdown of the game.
The Spartans clawed back to within 30-13 after Smith hit wide receiver Marcus Rogers with an 11-yard touchdown pass then recovered an onside kick to briefly make things interesting. Smith was picked off for the second time of the game, though, this time by Aquantis Sanja, who returned it 60 yards to the Campbell 5. Pebblebrook scored on its first play of the offensive possession to make it 37-13.
“Our defense was really strong,” Saunders said. “We’ve just got to keep getting better. It’s 1-0 in the region, and we’ve just got to keep working.”
Pebblebrook plays at Westlake next Friday, while Campbell hosts Newnan.