Warriors lose physical battle with Rams
ZEPHYR COVE – This young Whittell High football team is just going to have to wait a little longer to end its ominous streak – not to mention a little patience.
The Warriors, looking for their first win since the end of the 2002 regular season, came out on the short end of a 34-12 score in their season home opener Saturday afternoon as Rite of Passage scored 27 unanswered points between the second and fourth quarters to break open a close game.
For Whittell (0-2 overall, 0-2 in Northern 2A play), a team that features youth on both offense and defense, the loss was the 19th in a row. Rite of Passage improved to 1-1 overall, 1-1 in conference.
“We’re young. We’re starting five freshmen both ways, so we’re making freshman mistakes right now,” Whittell coach John Summers said. “Our goal with these younger kids is to get better from one week to the next. They are competitive kids; they just need to play and we’ve got to be patient with them.”
Statistically speaking, the game was closer than the final score shows. The two teams were even in first downs with eight apiece and Whittell enjoyed a 247-231 advantage in total offense. And the play of the day came on Curtis Humbird’s 81-yard touchdown reception from sophomore quarterback Roberto Concha-Foley, a play that brought the Warriors back to within 7-6 early in the second quarter.
The difference was turnovers, as Whittell turned the ball over five times – three times on fumbles, twice on interceptions – including a 39-yard interception return for a third-quarter touchdown by Alexander Rodriguez. Rite of Passage fumbled six times and only lost one.
“We kind of took a step back today,” Summers said in comparing Whittell’s season-opening 6-0 loss at Hawthorne one week before. “These guys we played today are a lot bigger and a lot more physical.”
Rite of Passage was coming off a 29-14 loss against Incline two weeks before, though coach Willie Taylor said the Rams are learning and improving.
“This was a lot better than the way we looked two weeks ago,” Taylor said. “I was happy with the way we moved the ball. Our line blocked well. I didn’t like eight penalties in the first half, but we played better in the second half.”
At the same time, he felt the Warriors were vastly improved from last year.
“Whittell has gotten a lot better,” Taylor said. “This team played a lot tougher and a lot harder. I was impressed with their physical play and with their discipline. This team here came to play, and that’s a credit to the kids and to their coaches.”
Rite of Passage took the opening kickoff and drove 67 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Montoya to Roshad Wilson. Running back Langilangi Haupeakui ignited the drive with a 26-yard run on a third-and-1 play from the Rams’ 42.
“He’s a big, strong kid,” said Taylor of Haupeakui, a 215-pound senior who rushed for 60 yards on 11 carries for the day. “He’s getting better. He was a rugby player before this, so he’s still learning how to play football.”
Rite of Passage was in good position after recovering a fumble near midfield early in the second quarter. Seniors Nick Spano and John Sinclair, however, came up big for Whittell’s defense when they collaborated on a first-down sack. Senior Bryce Rafferty stuffed a third down run to force the Rams to punt.
Whittell’s ensuing series started off with three successive penalties that pushed the Warriors back to their 2. Concha-Foley scrambled 17 yards for a first down at the 19. Three plays later, Whittell’s sophomore quarterback lofted a strike over the middle to Humbird, who beat double coverage for a 81-yard catch and run that made it 7-6.
“Curtis has done a great job,” Summers said of Humbird, a senior wide receiver who finished with five receptions for 106 yards. “He’s a positive kid who works hard.”
Rite of Passage capitalized on a fumble recovery by Ilaisia Lotaki to score again later in the second quarter when Wilson caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Montoya on a third-and-13 play.
Rite Of Passage struck again on its opening possession of the third quarter when Mario Saldana scored on a 14-yard sweep.
Whittell ended the game with a nine-play, 72-yard touchdown drive. Freshman Cody Nelson shook loose on a 17-yard run to ignite the drive, Concha-Foley added runs of 20 and 15 yards, then freshman Philip Gielow scored on a 1-yard run with 39.5 seconds remaining.
“The kids did a good job; that was a nice drive,” Summers said. “It was a positive way to end the game.”
Concha-Foley rushed for 65 yards on 11 carries and Gielow added 37 yards on 12 carries for the Warriors, who return to Northern 2A action at Silver Stage (0-2, 0-2) on Saturday. Silver Stage dropped a 42-15 decision at Yerington this past Friday, a game it led 15-14 in the third quarter.
Rite of Passage 34, Whittell 12
Rite of Passage 7 8 13 6 – 34
Whittell 0 6 0 6 – 12
ROP-R. Wilson 24 pass from Montoya (Muniz kick), 5:03
W-Humbird 81 pass from Concha-Foley (Pass failed), 8:46
ROP-R. Wilson 40 pass from Montoya (Haupekui run), 4:03
ROP-Saldana 14 run (Muniz kick), 8:04
ROP-LangiLangi 1 run (kick blocked), 1:28
ROP-A. Rodriguez 39 interception return (kick failed), 9:28
W-Gielow 1 run (run failed), :39.5
Rushing-ROP (39-165): LangiLangi 11-60, Saldana 4-42, A. Rodriguez 7-30, Montoya 11-23, Caballero 2-10, R. Rodriguez 1-4, Muniz 2-1, C. Wilson 1-(minus 5). Whittell (33-141): Concha-Foley 11-65, Gielow 12-37, Swoger 7-21, Nelson 2-23, Humbird 1-(minus 5).
Passing-(ROP) Montoya 2-3-0-66; (Whittell) Concha-Foley 5-12-2-106.
Receiving-(ROP) R. Wilson 2-66; (Whittell) Humbird 5-106.
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