The Whittell football team needed only one game to match its win total from a year ago. The Warriors beat Loyalton 50-36 in their season opener at home on Friday night to start the 2014 campaign in winning fashion.
“The team won only one game last year, so it was important to get off to a good start,” Warriors head coach Phil Bryant said. “With a first-game win we can hopefully build on that and continue to be competitive all season.”
Whittell (1-0) erased an early six-point deficit with back-to-back touchdowns to take a 14-6 lead. Both teams traded scores in the second quarter, and the Warriors went into the break with a 36-20 lead and control of the game.
“We are an extremely young team but the players have bought into a completely new system and worked hard to be where we are at this point in the season,” Bryant said. “The conditioning program has been tough but the league is tough and we can’t compete if we are not physically ready. The offseason weight program was a big help and the positive attitude of the players is a huge factor in getting better as a team.”
Offensively, Whittell delivered a solid performance despite a handful of 5-yard penalties. Junior quarterback Colin Buchholz led a Warriors offense that tallied 563 yards — 350 on the ground and 213 in the air.
In the running game, senior Jake Sharp had 160 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. Freshman Corey Huber ran for 108 yards and Buchholz added 68.
In the air Buchholz threw two touchdown passes, both to tight end Bryce Bronken — Bronken had four catches for 76 yards in the win and Dismas Womack also had four receptions for 73 yards. Bryant said offensive line play was a plus for Whittell on Friday night, but added that the line didn’t stay as low as necessary to beat the playoff-caliber teams in league play.
On defense, Bryant said the Warriors weren’t quite where they wanted to be against Loyalton (0-1) — but added that the mistakes they made are correctible. He said that Whittell defensive coordinator Doug Patton has some ideas to improve the performance of the defense, and changes will likely include personnel moves. Buchholz, Bronken, Logan Manchester and Sean Moyes led Whittell in tackles against the Grizzlies.
“We had some big plays from a lot of different guys but need to get better with team defense,” Bryant said. “We are looking for major contributions from Kai Mangiaralina and Trinity Dickinson.”
Whittell returns to action on Saturday at Excel Christian (Sparks, Nev.) at 1 p.m. Saturday’s contest will be the season opener for Excel Christian.