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Warriors, don’t let one loss shape your season

Column by Steve Yingling

A football team probably hasn’t deserted a locker room any quicker than Whittell High did on Saturday.

After being blitzed 44-6 by Battle Mountain, few players hung around to rehash their season opener with friends and family.

Surely, there were a few players heading to their vehicles thinking, “Here we go again: 0-9.”

Hold on, Warriors. You played one of the best Nevada 3A teams in the state, holding your own for three quarters. By no means should the Warriors start thinking about basketball. Although the final score reflected a blowout, one play unraveled the Warriors’ attempt at a second-half comeback. The Longhorns didn’t secure the nonleague win until Derek Matthews swiped a flat pass and raced 94 yards for a touchdown to open a 35-6 lead on the first play of the final quarter.

“They were pretty hard hitters, but we didn’t execute the way we could have,” said Whittell senior back Adrian Norman. “There were little things like we’d miss a block or Joel (Warnick) or I would cut the wrong way.”

Even though Battle Mountain was 2-8 last season, the Longhorns obviously are a playoff contender. Their breakaway speed in the backfield and equally effective passing game will be tough for any team to handle.

“It’s not the end of our lives here. First, we told them this is a nonleague contest. Our focus now can’t be on the past. It’s got to be on improving for not necessarily next week, but the following week when we start our league play,” said Whittell coach Summers, who lost very few games as a Warriors assistant during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Whittell’s offense only produced six points but accumulated 203 total yards. An untimely fumble and interception prevented the Warriors from scoring two more times.

As for the defense, the Warriors need to react quicker to sweeps and prevent players from turning short passes into a touchdowns.

“They need to work on getting their guys out on the sweep. We have a fast team this year, but they need to line their ends out a little wider and maybe bring up their defensive backs,” said Battle Mountain running back Brandon Schultz, who scored on a 20-yard sweep.

Battle Mountain coach Tim Knight came away appreciating the Warriors’ effort.

“One thing that scared me throughout the game was those little passes they were running out into the flat. They dropped a lot of them. If they could have caught a couple more, they would have gained a little confidence, and it would have changed the complexion of the game,” Knight said.

There was some question whether Battle Mountain exceeded its scoring boundaries late in the game. Quarterback Brian Ellis, who passed for 247 yards and two touchdowns, never left the field, and the Longhorns passed several times near the end of the fourth quarter.

“The last time they were here we whipped them 42-10, so I’m sure they were just trying to even it up. However, when we beat them here we had our young guys in that whole last quarter. Eventually, that kind of stuff catches up to you,” Summers said.

Knight indicated that he didn’t have a choice regarding Ellis, and that he replaced linemen and running backs late in the game.

“We don’t have a backup quarterback. It looked like we could have backed off a bit, but the thing is when you put those backups in, they’re all fighting for playing time, so when they go out there they’re going to do their absolute best,” he said.

From a mental standpoint, Battle Mountain wasn’t the right foe for Whittell to touch off the season. Coming off a winless season, the Warriors needed someone closer to home – perhaps North Tahoe – to repair what last season had done to their psyches.

“You can’t win them all. It’s just our first game,” Summers said. “We might not have been able to win today, but I would have been happy with just playing better.”

By continuing to work as hard as they have during the spring and summer, good things are ahead for Whittell. Games against Moapa Valley and Bishop Manogue next month are their toughest tests left.

Better yet, Warriors, slip in a Seven Mary Three CD on the way home every night and listen to “Over Your Shoulder,” especially the lyrics “Sooner or later it’s over your shoulder, so don’t start thinking it’s over.”

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

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