COLEVILLE — Will Sandy was understandably concerned Saturday afternoon as he watched the Coleville High football team during warm-ups for its game against Whittell.
In addition to strong wind blowing from the south and ominous gray clouds overhead, Coleville had a sophomore quarterback preparing for his first start in the Western Division IV 8-man football opener for both teams.
So, Sandy figured it would be important to get off to a fast start.
The Wolves took care of business as they played a perfect first quarter with the wind at their backs — four possessions, four touchdowns — en route to a 54-0 victory against Whittell.
Sophomore Ricky Gieser scored on 19- and 28-yard touchdown runs and threw a 17-yard scoring pass to Nestor Gutierrez on successive possessions to put Coleville (3-0) in the driver’s seat. The Wolves led 32-0 after one quarter and 48-0 at halftime.
“Usually, you want the wind at your back for the second quarter,” Sandy said. “But we were thinking with a young quarterback, you probably want the wind at your back so you can try to win that field position battle.”
Gieser started at quarterback in place of senior Seth Huhta, who was sidelined for disciplinary reasons. Gieser rushed for 73 yards, threw for 25 and directed touchdown drives on all six of Coleville’s first-half possessions.
“I think the thing I was most pleased about was that we made very few mistakes,” Sandy said. “We had no turnovers and only a couple of penalties, which is really good, especially under those conditions.”
For Whittell (0-2), the experience was another step in a building process, coach David Housel acknowledged.
“We’re a young team, we only have three seniors,” Housel said. “This was only our second game and you could see early on they had some butterflies. We’re building, but we have a bright future ahead.”
The wind was enough of a factor in the first quarter that Housel decided against punting on three straight possessions. Coleville’s defense held on each occasion.
“I just felt we couldn’t punt it,” Housel said afterward. “So I figured we might as well go for it.”
In all honesty, it may not have mattered.
When the Warriors faced fourth-and-6 from their own 24, senior running back Tristan Beckwith appeared to have running room, except Gieser knifed in from his middle linebacker position to stop the play for a 2-yard loss.
On the next play, Gieser threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Gutierrez to put Coleville on top, 24-0.
Even when the score was 32-0, Sandy showed his respect for the Warriors and weather conditions in the waning moments of the first quarter when he urged the Wolves not to let down.
“They’re gonna get the wind in a minute … this could change in a hurry,” Sandy said on the sideline to a squad that only had 13 players suited up.
Jacob Park rushed for 136 yards, all in the first half, including touchdown runs of 18 and 8 yards in the second quarter to extend the lead to 48-0. The senior also scored on a 7-yard run late in the first quarter and returned a punt 52 yards for Coleville’s final score in the fourth quarter.
Whittell showed signs of life in a driving rain shortly before halftime, however, a long fourth-down pass from Alex Barnes intended for Jacob Sharp from the Coleville 30 fell incomplete.
The Warriors mounted an 11-play drive to start the third quarter, only to stall on fourth-down when Barnes was stopped short of the first down marker at the 20 by a defensive charge led by Ashton Mitchell. Barnes rushed for 31 yards on seven carries during the drive.
Whittell’s defense also had more success in the second half. Coleville’s only drive ended on a fourth-and-goal play from the 5 on Beckwith’s tackle for a 2-yard loss.
“I was proud of the way the kids came back in the second half,” Housel said. “When we talked at halftime, I told them it’s easy to quit, but that’s not what makes winners. And they never quit.”
Matt Algeo had a hand in 12 tackles from his nose tackle position (4 solo, 8 assists), Park added 11 tackles and Kyle Koskin 10. Park also had an interception.
Joel Gomez had eight kickoffs, five of which went for touchdowns. His lone punt of the day was a 52-yarder in the third quarter.
“He’s a pretty big weapon for us,” Sandy said of Gomez. “Joel is a very unselfish player, too. He’s a pretty good receiver, but he’s had to play strong end (or tight end) because that’s where we’ve needed him. So he’s given up a lot of glory to help out his teammates.”
UP NEXT: The Warriors will host Pyramid Lake at 7 p.m. on Friday at Whittell High School.