Posted: 1:45 pm Friday, October 19th, 2012

Dwyer looking for leadership after jarring loss to Atlantic 

By Matt Porter

Dwyer coach Jack Daniels couldn’t wait to get a look at the film Friday morning. The visual evidence of his team’s first loss of the season, on Thursday to district rival Atlantic, confirmed his long-held, even-handed notion.

“I saw that when you lose, it’s not as bad as you think it is, and when you win, it’s not as good as you think it is,” Daniels said.

Here are five other things he saw:

1. Impatient with the pass. “We had a lot of positives,” Daniels said. “Alonso [Smith] ran the ball well. But we weren’t patient as coaches. They were giving us the run. We tried to force the pass with too many guys in coverage.”

“If we had stuck to running the ball, we might have been able to throw, but we’re not a great passing team with our quarterbacks right now.”

Even with standout juniors Clint Stephens, Johnnie Dixon and Ezra Saffold lining up at receiver, the Panthers weren’t able to get the passing game going.

“Any time we lose, it’s play-calling. We’re impatient. We have Clint, Johnnie and Ezra, so we want to get those guys touches. We try to throw and it’s not there.”

2. Pressure from Atlantic. “That was a key,” Daniels said. “They were able to get a lot of pressure without bringing the blitz.”

Daniels complimented Atlantic’s defensive line, especially senior defensive tackles Keith Bryant and Henry Darius and senior defensive end Todney Evans. Daniels had a crack about Bryant, who has a habit of crowing after making big plays.

“No. 54 (Bryant) is a beast,” Daniels said. “He never shuts his mouth, but he’s a good player. No. 51, the other defensive tackle, plays harder than anyone on their team. No. 9, the end, he’s a good player.”

3. QB spot open. Daniels said he’s going to re-open the position of starting quarterback in advance of Friday’s game against Lake Worth, another District 13-7A tilt.

Neither senior Clay Meister (1-for-7, INT) nor junior Robbie Nittolo (2-for-14, 30 yards, INT) distinguished themselves. Daniels didn’t say whether sophomore Daniel Parr, the promising junior varsity starter, would be in that mix.

“Whoever has the best week of practice is going to be the starter,” Daniels said. “The stuff they were giving us last night, we weren’t able to complete.”

Dwyer’s patchwork offensive line didn’t help matters, failing to get the needed push in goal line situations or block the Keith Bryants of the world. Not having senior Anthony Williams (thigh contusion), a key blocker in critical situations, also hurt.

“Our red zone was pathetic,” Daniels said. “We were in there three times and couldn’t score. But Atlantic has a good team.”

4. Smith, D-line strong. Daniels looked first to the running of junior Alonso Smith (187 yards, two touchdowns on 18 carries). Smith broke touchdown runs of 20 and 43 yards.

Also, Dwyer’s defensive line brought pressure all night. Daniels said junior defensive tackle Mark Kelly and senior end Ted Taylor played hard the whole game. Atlantic was penalized 12 times for 111 yards, including six holding calls.

“Most of the night Atlantic was behind the sticks on second-and-20 or third-and-20, and we gave up big plays,” Daniels said.

Speaking of big plays, Daniels mentioned Brisly Estime’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown as a turning point. That made it 7-0 and caused doubts to creep in.

5. Effort lacking. Daniels’ message to his team Friday morning wasn’t about Xs and Os. “It was about effort,” he said. “That was the key. I don’t think we’re a team. I told them, ‘You don’t play as a team. You don’t cheer each other on.’”

In recent seasons, Dwyer had players like Keith Bowers (Maryland) and Curt Maggitt (Tennessee) to make sure no one’s effort level dipped. But Thursday, only a few shouts were heard on the sideline. Blum Stadium was silent as the surface of the moon.

“Our team is probably missing one of the most important things, and that’s leadership,” Daniels said. “I don’t know how to coach that. I don’t know how to make a leader.”

The implication there being one or several of his players needs to become one, and quickly.