Mustangs play keepaway from Warriors
LOVELOCK — Ball control? Lovelock’s monopoly Friday night was one any Sherman Antitrust Act-hating industrialist would have admired.
Jeremy Hudson rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries and the Mustangs ran 66 plays to Whittell’s 29, including 58 to 12 during the first three quarters, to grind down the Warriors 28-12 in a Northern 2A football game.
By Lovelock coach Joe Yanni’s admission, the Mustangs (1-0 in league, 4-0 overall) weren’t at the level of efficiency it will need to attain to challenge Battle Mountain and West Wendover for Northern 2A supremacy.
Only one of the Mustangs’ 61 rushes — a 70-yard scoring run by Tom Rector to cement the outcome on the final play of the third quarter — covered more than 18 yards. Only three of Hudson’s runs were for more than 15 yards, including two on Lovelock’s final series of the game, and the Mustangs lost two fumbles inside Whittell’s 15-yard line in the first half.
Whittell (1-1, 2-2) didn’t run a single offensive play in the second quarter until 25 seconds remained, after the Warriors’ Brian Jones recovered a fumble at his 14 and returned it 15 yards. Yet Whittell pierced Lovelock’s defense with three passes to score on the final play of the first half and only trailed 14-6 at the break, even though the Warriors had only nine plays to Lovelock’s 40 in the first half.
“We ran that many more plays than them, and they’re still in the game late,” said Yanni, shaking his head. “We just made a lot of mental mistakes at bad times, and Whittell’s a pretty good team. Their linebackers really fly around.”
But even though the Warriors and particularly inside linebacker Jake Summers flung themselves at Lovelock’s ballcarriers without letup, their special-teams largesse and the Mustangs’ persistence kept Whittell’s defense on the field past the point of exhaustion.
Lovelock converted seven of nine fourth-down opportunities, including five of seven in the first half, and Whittell mishandled four kickoffs, losing two — including one that Lovelock kicker Ricardo Arteaga recovered himself.
“We’ve got four guys who’ve never played football before on our special teams,” said Whittell first-year coach Mike Evans, who had 19 players in uniform. “We try to rest our best players on special teams and hide a few guys up front, but you saw what happened.”
On the opening kickoff, Arteaga’s line-drive kick caromed off a Whittell player and was recovered by the Mustangs, who cudgeled their way from the Whittell 35 to the 7. Quarterback Justin Burrows fumbled there, and Whittell’s Ty Anderson recovered at the 1, but Whittell’s punt after a three-and-out traveled only 24 yards to the 30, and Hudson scored from the 3 seven plays later.
After another three-and-out, and a 17-yard punt that the wind, which had the wooden light towers at Lovelock’s stadium creaking ominously all night, deposited at the Whittell 44, the Mustangs chewed up 15 plays and eight minutes while converting three fourth-down chances, including a fourth and-13 on which Mike Starr gained 15 yards on a reverse.
Hudson scored on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 to make the score 14-0 with 3:36 left.
The wind again conspired against Whittell on Arteaga’s kickoff, which he recovered almost where he kicked it after the ball died in midair, out of reach of Whittell’s front wall. That enabled the Mustangs to run eight more plays before Jones recovered Burrows’ fumble, which he would have returned for an 86-yard touchdown had Lovelock’s Joe Belanger not tripped him up from behind at the Whittell 29.
With only 25 seconds with which to work, Whittell quarterback Nick Lowe and his offense tacked in the favoring wind like an America’s Cup yacht. He completed a 16-yard pass to Parker Fox on a play on which Lovelock was hit with a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty.
With 16 seconds left, Lowe found Jones on a fly pattern for 27 yards, and with six seconds left and the ball at the 13, Lowe threw on a crossing pattern to Alex Swearingen, who squirmed over the goal line while in the grasp of a defender to bring Whittell within 14-6.
At halftime, though, Yanni instructed his team to set aside the triple option, which it had used with only middling success, and transform its playbook into a brochure. After taking the kickoff at its 38, Lovelock, running out of a three-back Power I formation with fullback Belanger convoying Hudson, hoarded the ball for 14 straight dive and off-tackle power plays.
Hudson carried on all but two of them, finally scoring from the 2 with 8 minutes elapsed to extend Lovelock’s lead to 20-6.
In recent years, Lovelock almost always has featured one of the biggest offensive lines in all of Northern Nevada, regardless of classification. This year’s O-line features 6-foot, 285-pound Joseph Diarte and 6-6, 210-pound Brian Urschel at the tackles, but none of the other three starters — center Keith Byrd and guards Adam Hyde and James George D weighs more than 185. The Mustangs’ new quickness and agility up front created gaps that Hudson, a 6-foot, 170-pound senior, was able to exploit once Lovelock began directing its plays at specific targets instead of waiting for openings to emerge in the option series.
fensive play in the second quarter until 25 seconds remained, after the Warriors’ Brian Jones recovered a fumble at his 14 and returned it 15 yards. Yet Whittell pierced Lovelock’s defeLovelock’s final touchdown came as the result of a moment of inspiration on the part of Yanni, one of Northern Nevada’s most respected coaches.
With Lovelock in possession at its 30, 13 seconds left in the third quarter and the Mustangs facing a second-and-12 situation, Yanni called a time-out — even though doing so meant Lovelock faced the prospect of kicking into the wind once the teams switched ends for the fourth quarter. But Yanni, noting that Whittell’s linebackers were keying on Hudson, had his team run a dive play to Rector while Hudson decoyed to his right and took most of the Warrior defenders with him.
Rector was untouched once he cleared the line of scrimmage and outran the Whittell secondary to the end zone for a 28-6 lead.
At that point, Whittell had run only 12 plays to Lovelock’s 58 in the game, but the Warriors finally gave their defense a chance to rest while constructing their only concerted drive of the night — a 70-yard, 17-play, 6-minute production that Jones notarized with an 11-yard scoring reception. He made a juggling catch on Lowe’s pass while toppling backward in the end zone.
“That was the only time we got anything going on offense,” said Evans, whose team accumulated 126 of its 133 net yards on its two scoring drives. “We’ve controlled the clock in our past games, but I don’t care what level you’re playing at E if you’ve got 11 guys chasing one guy all night like we had to, it’s gonna wear you down.”
The fact the score wasn’t more one-sided than it was represented a testimonial to Whittell’s defense. Swearingen, who recently was moved from safety to linebacker, and defensive back Anton went sideline to sideline to break up plays — Swearingen also had a 69-yard punt — and Summers had 14 unassisted tackles in addition to participating in at least a dozen more. At one point during Lovelock’s scoring drive to open the second half, he tackled Hudson five straight times, and was shadowing him to such an extent that they almost seemed joined at the hip.
“He was just all over the place,” Evans said of Summers, a senior who has been a starter since his freshman year. “We were running some defenses where they were able to cover him (with a lineman before the snap), but he still found a way to find the ball. I can’t be disappointed with anything about our defense.”
Despite the loss, the Warriors looked nothing like the dispirited group that went 0-9 last season, including a 77-0 loss to Independence. Evans hopes the final scoring drive will represent a springboard into Whittell’s next game, at West Wendover next Saturday.
“If we win our two (remaining) home games (against Independence and Hawthorne), we’ll probably be in the playoffs,” Evans said. “And that’s all I want, to get in and then take our chances.”
LOVELOCK 28, WHITTELL 12
Whittell 0 6 0 6 D 12
Lovelock 8 6 14 0 D 28
L — Hudson 3 run (Rector pass from Burrows)
L — Hudson 1 run (run failed)
W — Swearingen 13 pass from Lowe (kick failed)
L — Hudson 2 run (run failed)
L — Rector 70 run (Burrows run)
W — Jones 11 pass from Lowe (run failed)
RUSHING D Whittell, Summers 7-22, Swearingen 5-17, Anton 2-12, Lowe 4-3. Totals 18-54.
Lovelock, Hudson 36-198, Rector 7-84, Burrows 16-18, Starr 1-15, Belanger 1-8. Totals 61-323.
PASSING D Whittell, Lowe 6-9-0-83, Swearingen 0-2-0-0; totals 6-11-0-83. Lovelock, Burrows 5-1-0-17.
RECEIVING D Whittell, Jones 3-45, Swearingen 2-22, Fox 1-16. Lovelock, Starr 1 17.
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