ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. - Whittell High School football lost its eight-man home opener 48-20 to Tonopah High School, but the team showed something it hasn't displayed in quite some time, a second-half surge.
With new bench depth, the Warriors fought their way back into a 28-12 game coming out of halftime.
Quarterback Austin Buyak opened the half with a series of successful pitches to running backs Hughston Norton and Garrett Bronken as the Warriors worked their way down field. In a mixture of luck and field intelligence, Buyak then recovered his own blocked punt and fired a 23-yard pass to Norton who breezed into the end zone unattested. Whittell put up a successful two-point conversion.
It looked like the momentum was in Whittell's favor when Norton followed his touchdown with a recovered onside kick, and the Warriors trailed by just eight. The momentum stopped there however, as the Warriors stalled against Tonopah's defense.
The early second half surge would be it for the Warriors, and despite their second-half fight they struggled to stop Tonopah's running game. Tonopah continued to pile on unanswered points and the game slipped away.
The Warriors did show flashes of greatness throughout the game. The team got off to its usual good start matching Tonopah touchdown for touchdown.
As the game opened, Tonopah persistently worked the ball down field to put the first touchdown on the board.
Buyak, however, erased all that in a matter of seconds. In Whittell's first play of the game, the quarterback broke free and ripped down the sideline, running in a 56-yard touchdown. The Warriors failed to get the follow up two-point conversion.
Tonopah answered quickly, but also missed points in its PAT attempt, and once again Whittell was able to answer back in a matter of just a few plays. Norton broke through a string of tackles following the same line Buyak laid minutes before for a 68-yard run down the line and into the end zone. Whittell again missed the two-point conversion leaving the score at 13-12.
It was the closest the Warriors would get all night and Norton's touchdown was the last points Whittell put on the board in the first half.
Whittell will play one more eight-man game against Smith Valley High School at home Aug. 31 before returning to 11-man games.