For all its pockmarks and periods of mistake-prone play, the Dover football team's 20-14 win at Kennard-Dale could be best explained by one, simple factor: The play of the Eagles' defense.
Even when Dover missed a slew of opportunities to add to its lead.
Even when it committed two turnovers and a critical special teams blunder.
The defense did its job.
So while this wasn't a work of art, it was exactly what Dover needed in both teams' YAIAA Division II opener Saturday afternoon. The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Eagles (3-3, 1-0), and sent Kennard-Dale (0-6, 0-1) to another frustrating defeat.
The Rams did not manage a first down after halftime, but still had a chance late after a botched Dover punt attempt set them up at the Eagles' 7-yard line. Kennard-Dale fullback Mike Young eventually scored on a one-yard dive on fourth down with 47 seconds left.
But Dover recovered the onside kick and was able to run out the clock.
"When you play Kennard-Dale, you got to be prepared to play with the game in your face," Dover coach Bill Miller said. "The only way to be able to do that and be successful from the defensive standpoint is to be physical.
"A couple of their plays, we have four or five guys swarming to the ball. That's nice to see."
The Eagles' defensive dominance was reflected in the numbers. Of Kennard-Dale's 136 total yards, 67 came on the Rams' first drive -- which ended with a 40-yard touchdown run by Young to tie the game at 7.
Dover's defense stiffened after that. Kennard-Dale was limited to five first downs on the afternoon, the last of which came with about nine minutes left in the second quarter. The Rams gained just 31 yards after halftime.
"We had a couple silly mistakes, but defensively we played really well," Dover sophomore linebacker/fullback Isaiah Green said. "Just crashing, getting off the ball."
Green also paced Dover on offense. He piled up a game-high 137 rushing yards on 16 carries, highlighted by a bruising, 59-yard touchdown run barely two minutes into the contest.
That was the good for Dover. Then there was the not-so-good.
The Eagles struggled to convert their scoring chances into points. They fumbled five times, losing two of them. On three straight possessions in the second and third quarters, Dover drove inside Kennard-Dale's 30 only to come away with nothing.
Dover also narrowly avoided disaster midway through the fourth quarter, when a muffed punt was ruled to have trickled into the end zone before a Rams player recovered it. Instead of a first-and-goal for Kennard-Dale, the play was ruled a touchback.
"Very sloppy," Miller said. "How many times did we have the ball inside the red zone? If we score every time inside the red zone, even just field goals, this game isn't even close."
After field goals in the first and third quarters by Dover's Dalton Heim nudged the lead to 13-7, the Eagles finally found the end zone again on the final play of the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback George Tischler swept left and raced up the sideline for a 29-yard score to make it 20-7.
Despite a few wobbles the rest of the way, Dover's defense made sure that lead would suffice.
"We just weren't sustaining our blocks," Kennard-Dale coach Andy Loucks said. "We'd block it right one time, then come back and block it wrong the next.
"That's been our problem all year: Consistency. We have good-enough kids. We just shoot ourselves in the foot too much."
Dover 10 0 10 0 -- 20
Kennard-Dale 7 0 0 7 -- 14
Do -- Isaiah Green 59 run (Dalton Heim kick), 9:39
KD -- Mike Young 46 run (Vince Failla kick), 8:28
Do -- Heim 26 FG, :01
Do -- Heim 23 FG, 2:31.
Do -- George Tischler 29 run (Heim kick), :00.
KD -- Young 1 run (Failla kick), :47.
-- Do -- KD
First downs -- 15 -- 5
Rushes-yards -- 57-265 -- 33-126
Passing -- 2-6-0 -- 2-7-0
Passing yards -- 15 -- 10
Total yards -- 280 -- 136
Punts -- 2-27.5 -- 5-30.8
Fumbles-lost -- 5-2 -- 1-0
Penalties-yards -- 3-30 -- 5-55
Rushing -- Dover, Isaiah Green 16-137, Logan Ambrose 21-66, George Tischler 8-65, Dylan Ehrlinger 4-28, Curtis Harman 1-7, Gabe Jackson 1-1, Tyler Jacobson 1-(-17), Jordan Wynegar 5-(-22); Kennard-Dale, Mike Young 13-83, Dan Hare 10-54, Phil Herndon 4-3, Logan Carlile 1-2, Kyle Amrhiem 5-(-16).
Passing -- Dover, Wynegar 1-3-0-18, George Tischler 1-3-0-(-3); Kennard-Dale, Kyle Amrhiem 2-7-0-10.
Receiving -- Dover, Logan Ambrose 1-18, Dan Bisking 1-(-3); Kennard-Dale, Anthony Rhodes 2-10.