Flashes fight hard, but falter on senior night

Central Michigan senior wide receiver Corey Willis runs past defenders to score a touchdown on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017.

Scott Lendak

The Flashes’ 2017 season can be summed up in a few negative words for the football team. 

Injuries. Losses. Heartbreak.

It hasn’t gone the way the team planned. 

But Tuesday was Senior Night for the Flashes, and they hoped to gain a win over Central Michigan in front of their home crowd a final time. 

They gave one of their best efforts of the season. 

Kent State looked inspired early as they forced the Chippewas to punt on their first drive. Then, after a drive highlighted by a 32-yard pitch-and-catch from quarterback George Bollas to tight end Chalfronte Butler, Shane Hynes made a 23-yard field goal to give the Flashes an early lead. 

Then, the Flashes surrendered a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Central Michigan’s Jerrod Davis.  

Despite the Flashes holding the opposing team to 30 yards of offense in the first quarter, they trailed 7-3.

After each team exchanged punts, the Chippewas marched 80 yards on five plays to take a 14-3 lead. The drive was capped off by a Jonathan Ward 12-yard touchdown run. 

Central Michigan dominated the second quarter until the Flashes showed a little life with receiving touchdowns from Bollas to sophomore wide receivers Mike Carrigan and Trey Harrell.  

“It was fun to watch a lot of young guys make plays,” coach Paul Haynes said. “We were a little short on defense, but it came down to them just making a few more plays. I love our effort, but we just came up a little short.” 

The Flashes trailed 28-17 at halftime, but Bollas had an impressive first half throwing for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He added 74 yards rushing. 

“I think I played a little better and smarter,” Bollas said. “I threw the ball away early in the game instead of trying to force throws. Other than that it was just my receivers making big-time plays.”

To open up the second half, Bollas dropped in a perfect pass to Butler down the middle of the field before safety Darwyn Kelly delivered a hard hit to force a fumble that was recovered by Central Michigan. 

It was a good defensive play, which was rare in a game in which the teams combined for 944 total yards. 

“It was a fun football game,” Haynes said. “Guys were making plays all over the place. They just made a couple more than we did, but the score didn’t show how close it was.” 

That wouldn’t be the last positive play on defense.

After the Chippewas traveled 76 yards down to the Flashes’ four-yard line, senior defensive lineman Anthony McKay forced a fumble, recovered by sophomore safety Manny Lawrence-Burke. 

The Flashes didn’t let the turnover go to waste by executing a double reverse to perfection into the hands of Carrigan. He juked two defenders and outran another on his way to a 57-yard touchdown run. 

It was his second touchdown over 50 yards on the game, and it put Flashes in striking distance. They trailed 28-23 after a failed two-point conversion.

“We just have guys making plays,” Haynes said. “It’s fun to watch how explosive Mike (Carrigan) is. The guy can run and everything. We just have to find ways to get him the ball.”

Just when the Flashes had momentum on their side, Central Michigan quarterback Shane Morris connected with wide receiver Corey Willis on a crossing route. 

Morris was about to be tackled by the Kent State cornerback, but planted his foot, switched directions and avoided the tackle on his way to a 53-yard touchdown. 

The Flashes couldn’t respond. After an interception from Bollas, the Chippewas started on their own one-yard line. On a third down, Morris rolled out to his right as three Kent State defenders chased him. 

Morris forced a throw to his receiver, but sophomore defensive back Miles Daniel jumped the route and intercepted the pass.  

The Flashes were in good position to cut the margin. 

But they couldn’t. 

After a poor snap from the center that traveled 25 yards in the wrong direction, Central Michigan sacked Bollas on the next play. A desperation pass on fourth down fell incomplete. 

The Flashes may have outplayed Central Michigan, but they hurt themselves too many times. 

Bollas finished the game with 367 total yards and two touchdowns. He threw for a career-high 310 passing yards.

“I loved the way George played,” Haynes said. “These mid-week games really help him with all the extra reps. Everyone gains more confidence in him the more he’s in there. I think we found our quarterback.”

The Chippewas tacked on another touchdown and defeated the Flashes 42-23. 

The Flashes will travel to take on rival Akron in the season finale on Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.

Scott Lendak is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]