Just as Hurricane Irene set her eyes upon the eastern seaboard Friday night, a new football season filled with hope and high expectations was brewing in Bloomingdale. Under a cool, breezy sky, the Bulls varsity team dropped its preseason home opener Friday, a 15-0 loss to a physical Durant team.
After a disappointing 2010 season (2-8, fourth place in Class 5A-District 6), coach John Booth and the Bulls coaching staff prepared this offseason for a new district alignment in Class 8A-District 6, which includes Wharton, Alonso and perennial powerhouse Plant.
Friday night’s preseason game was a test to measure the hard work and preparation of a long offseason, and from the opening kickoff, Bloomingdale looked like a team on a mission.
Defensively in 2010, the Bulls surrendered an average of 26.9 points a game. With six defensive starters returning, including outstanding defenders in linebacker Josh Scarberry and defensive back Tyler McCollum, the Bulls defense had a lot to prove to the home faithful against a powerful Cougar offense known for punishing defenses.
From the opening snap, Bloomingdale placed pressure on Durant's offense and kept the Cougars out of sync for most of the first half. Durant’s quarterback, Michael Fabrizio, was openly harassed and had little time to find open receivers downfield.
Durant’s offensive goal was clear — overpower the undersized Bloomingdale defensive line and capitalize on the Bulls' mistakes. Although clearly outsized, the Bulls were able to find mismatches using their linebackers and secondary for much-needed run support to stop the Durant ground assault.
While the Bulls' defense exceeded expectations, the Bloomingdale offense struggled much of the night. Remnant of the lethargic offensive output from 2010, where they averaged only 15.6 points a game, the Bulls did little offensively in Friday's loss.
Durant also showed some defensive life of its own against the young but talented Bulls offense as it placed intense pressure on Bloomingdale quarterback Shug Oyegunle throughout the game.
Despite the constant pressure, Oyegunle displayed nice poise in the pocket for the Bulls. He showed nice touch on deep passes and
showcased his arm strength on deep out patterns down the field.
Each team's defense came up big in key situations facing 3rd-and-short yardage. Based on outstanding defensive plays and key turnovers, neither team produced productive offensive drives in the first half.
Durant squandered opportunities to score early, including a 29-yard field goal attempt that Bloomingdale blocked to end a scoreless first half.
The third quarter again saw no offensive signs of life from either team.
The Cougars offense rallied behind gutsy runs by Fabrizio. Durant would power its way to a 3-yard touchdown run, giving them their first lead of the game. On the ensuing extra point, Bloomingdale was drawn offside, setting the Cougars up for short yardage and an easy 2-point conversion, giving them a late 8-0 lead.
Two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties would halt Bloomingdale's finest drive of the night and proved costly as Durant once again turned the Bloomingdale offensive stall into a scoring drive.
With 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, Durant scored on a punishing run by Jamarlon Hamilton to take a 15-0 lead it would not surrender.
Up Next for Bloomingdale
The Bulls will travel to Tampa to play Chamberlain at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2.