The South Tahoe football team didn’t start its season on a winning note Friday night — but showed signs of promise in defeat. The Vikings lost to El Dorado (Placerville) 45-28 at Viking Stadium, unable to fully recover from a rough first half.
“For our first time out, that was a good job by us,” Vikings head coach Kevin Hennessee said. “We’re definitely head and shoulders better than we were last year.”
South Tahoe (0-1) had trouble moving the ball from the outset and trailed 10-0 after the opening quarter. El Dorado (1-0) methodically increased its lead in the second quarter, adding three touchdowns to take a 31-0 lead into the break.
Early on in the first half, the Vikings kept El Dorado’s offense in check. But the Cougars wore down South Tahoe, and finished the opening two frames with 294 yards — backs Tyler Clanin and Carter Meyers had two rushing touchdowns apiece.
“When we started to get a little momentum, we’d get something that would stop our momentum and keep them moving along,” Hennessee said.
South Tahoe’s defense got a much-needed stop to start the second half, which awakened the team and set the tone for an even final two quarters. The Vikings started the next possession near midfield after a bad punt, and took advantage of the miscue for their first score of the season.
STHS went 55 yards in seven plays to get on the board, a drive capped by a 1-yard run from Quinton Ritter with 6:28 left in the quarter. Both teams traded scores over the next six minutes, and the Vikings trailed 45-14 headed into the fourth quarter.
“The offensive line coaches adjusted the pass blocking a little bit, moved some guys over a little bit and changed some things,” Hennessee said. “That was a big help.”
South Tahoe’s offense continued to move the ball consistently during the last frame, making it 45-21 midway through the fourth quarter on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Mason Cain to Stone Merkley. The Vikings added a late score through the air — a 6-yard strike from Cain to Kirby David.
“These guys just didn’t give up,” Hennessee said. “We’re playing better, and when we get everybody here it will be even better.”
Due to multiple injuries, South Tahoe suited up 18 players in Friday night’s season opener. Despite the smaller than normal numbers, the Vikings seemed to hit their stride in the latter stages of the game — 62 percent of their 305 total yards of offense came in the last two quarters.
“We did a great job of battling — we literally suited up 18 guys tonight and we were rolling guys in two or three different positions,” Hennessee said. “I’m extremely proud of that.”
Cain finished 25-of-48 for 277 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss — David caught nine passes for 113 yards and a score and receiver Will Mori had nine catches for 112 yards. On the ground, Ritter had a team-high 67 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and Andrew Herrera also found the end zone.
For El Dorado, Bonniksen went 19-for-27 passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns. Meyers had a game-high 142 yards rushing and two scores, and Clanin had 130 yards on the ground, 83 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
“They had some bigger kids — when they got into that big set they basically overpowered us,” Hennessee said. “We just couldn’t slow (Clanin) down — he was a beast.”
South Tahoe returns to action next Friday at 7 p.m., when it begins I-A Northern League play at Spring Creek. For the Spartans, Friday night’s contest will be their season opener.
“Every game is going to be a tough game from here on in, every game counts and we’re just going to try and get better,” Hennessee said.