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It was a difficult debut for Westminster’s new crew Friday night.

The Owls, led by first-year head coach Chris Bassler, struggled to stop the run and committed several costly mistakes in a 42-20 loss to South River at Ruby Field.

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Westminster found it tough to contain the Seahawks’ speedy playmaker, Delvin Johnson. With a score just before half, the Owls thought they had the momentum to overcome a 7-point deficit. Johnson made sure that didn’t happen.

On the Seahawks’ first drive of the second half, Johnson burned Westminster by taking a short pass and cutting through the defense for a 75-yard score.

After a field goal by Westminster senior kicker Evan Warren, Johnson struck again. He took a second-down hand-off, made a couple of defenders miss and used his speed to rumble for an 81-yard score. Johnson finished with over 200 yards of total offense and three scores.

Westminster took an early 7-0 lead on 3-yard touchdown run by Nate Mattingly. The score was set up by an opportunistic Owls defense that forced a Seahawks fumble deep in their own end.

South River responded quickly on the ensuing drive behind Johnson. The running back racked up 30 yards on the drive, which culminated in 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Foust to Sam Leonard.

The Owls helped the Seahawks several times during the drive with two encroachment penalties and a face mask penalty that helped set up the score. Mistakes hurt Westminster big in the first half.

Later in the quarter, another mistake from the Owls helped South River extend to a 21-7 lead. A blocked punt by South River set them up in prime position for a score deep in Owls’ territory. Westminster buckled down and looked like they were going to hold after pushing the Seahawks back beyond the 30-yard line. However, a big run by Johnson on a 2nd and 25 got South River within range.

On third down, a speedy Johnson got behind the defense and cashed in with an 18-yard touchdown catch.

The Owls responded just before half, helped by a couple of penalties on South River. A personal foul set the Owls up inside the South River 10 with a first-and-goal. After a pair of runs by Mattingly set them up at the 7, Owls quarterback Jalen Bradford took upon himself to get into the end zone.

He danced around several defenders found pay dirt to cut the deficit to 21-14 at half.

Bradford struggled in his first game with the Owls under center. He didn’t receive much help from his receivers as the Owls had multiple drops in the first half with the game still hanging in the balance. Bradford completed just 2 of 10 passes in the first half for 11 yards. He threw his only interception with the Owls trailing big, 42-20, in the third quarter.

Mattingly paced the Owls on offense with 60 yards and a score.

Warren, a Navy commit, knocked through a pair of long field goals in the third quarter – including a 43-yarder.

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