TAHOE CITY - If the first play of Saturday's Whittell at North Tahoe football game was any indication, the Lakers were in for a long day.
Whittell quarterback Austin Buyak connected with Ty Sprock for a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage, and the Warriors went on to earn a 37-6 league win.
The Lakers seemed poised for a comeback against their lakeside rival when they drove the ball downfield with a smashmouth rushing attack led by Baird Bishop and Buster Fenley, narrowing the score to 10-6 late in the first quarter. Both Bishop and Fenley were hobbled early in the contest, however, which threw a wrench into the gears of North Tahoe's offense and defense, and Whittell took full advantage.
Buyak, a beast of a quarterback who can hurt teams with his powerful right arm or his legs, completed 12 of his 21 passes for 264 yards, with four touchdown tosses and one interception. All four of those TDs went for 34 yards or more as the Lakers struggled to fill in positions with the limited play of their big two.
"If Baird and Buster go out of the game, we have a lot of guys out of position and in a tough spot," said North Tahoe head coach Scott Everist, who suited 17 players, with only three seniors. "But to put things in perspective, no one thought we'd even be here now. These kids are tougher than snot."
Whittell head coach David Housel was pleased with his team's performance, as the Warriors limited the Lakers to 187 yards of total offense - all rushing - while tallying 397 yards of their own. The coach credited his players' effort, as well as the benefit of a "full" roster of 19 bodies.
"It was our first game with all our kids. We had some new faces, and they all did well," he said. "When we come up against a team without much depth like us, which is rare, it's nice to be able to wear them down. Having subs paid off."
North Tahoe moved the ball steadily down the field in the first half, repeatedly breaking off chunks of yardage with hard runs up the gut. But the Lakers only managed the one touchdown as drives petered out or resulted in turnovers.
The one TD drive was impressive. They drove 80 yards in 14 plays, capped by a bruising 3-yard run by Fenley.
The Warriors had an answer, however, as Buyak hit Sprock in the open field on the ensuing possession and the speedy senior outran the secondary for a 59-yard touchdown. Garrett Bronken kicked through one of his four PATs of the game - he also kicked a 39-yard field goal - and Whittell led 17-6 as the first quarter came to a close.
Whittell added another long touchdown play in the second quarter, this time for 41 yards from Buyak to Alex Barnes, to carry a 24-6 lead into the half.
Late in the third quarter, Hughston Norton broke free for 26 yards to the 3-yard line before being taken down by Fenley, who was already nursing an ankle injury. A scary moment ensued when Fenley rolled around complaining of pain in his neck. Coaches and trainers tended to the injured senior and determined that it was only a "stinger." He returned to the game the next quarter.
"The kids don't quit. They're hard-nosed," Everist said.
Kody Dangtongee punched the ball into the end zone two plays later, while the Warriors added a final score in the fourth on a 34-yard pass play from Buyak to Norton.