Warriors’ defense keeps it close | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warriors’ defense keeps it close

Steve Yingling

Judging from the back slaps and hugs afterward, Whittell High had won its first football game in two years.

In some ways the Warriors had. Holding playoff qualifier Lovelock to a 22-0 victory in their season finale Thursday in Zephyr Cove was a moral victory for a team that has lost 19 straight games.

“I’m probably not going to play football again, and I just wanted to finish the season with a win and do a job,” said Warrior senior defensive lineman Kelin Munson, who made four tackles behind the line of scrimmage. “It’s been real tough and we have to get over this (losing). Every week is a new game and a new beginning.”

Whittell coach John Summers called the performance his team’s best.

“We’re talking about maybe two plays that changed the course of the game. Take those two away and we still might be out there playing overtime,” Summers said.

Opposing quarterback Michael Nelson wasn’t pleased with just winning.

“We knew they weren’t terrible, but I felt we’d win by a little more than we did,” Nelson said.

For the second straight season quarterback Trent Gordon and his 17 teammates experienced an 0-9 season. Afterward, in a somber Whittell locker room, Gordon promised that next season will be different.

“I’m not happy about how things turned out. I won’t allow us as a team to go winless next year. And I know there are other guys who feel the same way,” said Gordon, who rushed for 37 yards on seven carries. “What we have to do is make it a point to get in the weight room, get out on the field and run plays and we need to make ourselves better athletes.”

As the defeats continue to mount, the Warriors find new ways to keep it going. On Thursday, they lost because they couldn’t tackle a quarterback and the offense was ineffective.

Nelson rushed for a career-high 147 yards, including a test-your-conditioning 97-yard second-quarter touchdown run. The senior quarterback also passed for 72 yards.

Behind an inspired defensive effort the Warriors didn’t allow the Mustangs to warm up the bus by halftime.

The Warriors shut out the Mustangs in the opening quarter, and Lovelock wasn’t able to get its offense untracked until the third possession.

Starting on its own 39, the Mustangs methodically marched 61 yards in nine plays with Neil Fleck capping the drive with a 13-yard sweep for six points. Josh Heidemann’s ensuing two-point conversion made the score 8-0 Lovelock with 10 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the half.

But the Warriors didn’t say, “Here we go again.”

Instead, the Warriors found their offense after only mustering nine yards on their first two possessions. The Warriors moved from their 41 to the Lovelock 7 before turning the ball over on downs.

Despite their poor field position, the end zone wasn’t that far away with Nelson running the show. Avoiding pressure from a Whittell blitz, Nelson tucked in the ball and cut outside to find a clear path to the end zone. Whittell lineman Dennis Lucas didn’t stop to watch, bringing down Nelson as he crossed the goal line.

“I figured they would catch me 50 yards downfield. I got real tired those last couple of yards,” Nelson said.

Nelson fumbled the conversion attempt, keeping the score at 14-0 with 3:22 to go before halftime.

Owen Brinkley prevented the Mustangs from padding their lead before halftime. His heavy rush at the Warrior 10 forced Nelson to fumble as he was falling backward at the 23. Luke Forvilly scooped up the loose ball and raced 25 yards before being caught from behind by Jeff Santos with :30 left in quarter.

Neither team generated much offense in the second half. Whittell’s deepest penetration – the Lovelock 45 – was turned away by an offensive pass interference penalty.

“If we could have hit a few passes early in the game, it would have loosed things up. You have to keep them honest, otherwise they stick everybody in the box. You can’t block eight guys when you only have six,” Summers said.

Meanwhile, the Mustangs’ scored on their first possession. A fumble set them up at the Whittell 39, and six plays later, Nelson sneaked in from four yards out, putting Lovelock ahead 20-0. Nelson connected with Fleck for a two-pointer to complete the scoring.

Lovelock (7-2) plays host to Virgin Valley or Moapa Valley Nov. 7 in the Nevada 3A state quarterfinals.

As for Whittell, the Warriors intend to intensify their weight training program.

“You have to find time to get into the weight room,” Summers told his team during a 20-minute postgame discussion. “I’m going to stay after you because that’s my job. It’s the stuff that we do before we get here in August that really matters. It’s a year-long process. That is something that hasn’t happened in the last three to four years, and the results are coming out in the wash.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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