Warriors pull off a big win in season opener | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warriors pull off a big win in season opener

Darin Olde, Tribune Staff writer
Dan ThriftAlex Swearingen of the Warriors is pulled down by a Tonopah player but not before scoring a touchdown midway through the first quarter in both teams' season opener Thursday in Zephyr Cove. Whittell romped to the nonleague win, 37-6, the school's first victory since 2000

With two touchdowns in the first quarter, the George Whittell High School Warriors surpassed their total offensive output in the entire 2001 season, and they were just getting warmed up.

The return of a capable offense and offensive/defensive line essentially put an end to last season’s 0-9 team, which scored a single league touchdown.

In its place is something the Warrior squad hasn’t seen in a long time — team confidence.

The Warriors defeated Tonopah in their opening game 36-7 and out-performed the Muckers in virtually every category.

After a strong punt return by Christian Anton halfway through the first quarter, quarterback Nick Lowe handed off to running back Alex Swearingen, who ran 13 yards for a touchdown during the Warrior’s second possession.

Then, Tommy Esquivel, a 6-1, 180-pound defensive lineman, recovered a Tonopah fumble on the Muckers’ next drive to give the Warriors’s the ball 25 yards from the end zone.

Lowe, a senior at 5-8 and 135 pounds, rolled outside the pocket, saw a big hole, and took it all the way to the end zone.

The Warriors took a 12-0 lead, having missed both of their 2-point conversion attempts, with 6:54 remaining in the first quarter.

“Nick was making good decisions,” said Warrior coach Mike Evans. “I told him if it’s not there, tuck and run or throw the ball away.”

“I didn’t realize home much of an impact he made until I saw the statistics,” he added later.

Lowe ran for one touchdown and returned an interception 63 yards in the second half for his second touchdown.

He threw two touchdown passes and played left corner on defense. He threw eight passes for 59 yards, compared with Tonopah’s starter Andy Gromis, who threw 11 passes for 3 yards.

“We scored (more than) triple the number of touchdowns we scored all last season. I’m so happy right now,” Lowe said.

Tonopah, however, threatened to make a comeback during the first half.

After Whittell’s second touchdown, the Muckers made several offensive drives, holding the ball for much of the second quarter. Late in the second half, they made four first downs before Whittell had its first.

With 7:04 remaining in the half, Gromis handed off to senior Tonopah running back Brandon Flaming on fourth and 1 for the Muckers’ first touchdown, capping an 18-play drive.

The Warriors then went four-and-out for the second time.

But the Warrior defense shut down Tonopah’s offense, playing man-to-man coverage and making four sacks for the day.

Whittell’s offense answered with a 6-yard pass from Lowe to senior wide receiver Brian Jones deep in the left corner of the end zone on their next possession to up Whittell’s lead to 18-6.

After Jake Summers sacked Gromis and caused a fumble — he had 19 tackles and three sacks before the day’s end — Lowe again connected with Jones with 2 seconds to go in the first half on an 11-yard touchdown pass.

The Warriors led 31-6 going into the third quarter.

With senior tight end Parker Fox catching a key 13-yard pass for a first down deep in the Muckers’ territory, the Warriors sealed the deal.

“We basically put it away when he caught that,” Evans said.

The team made running plays and switched from man-to-man to zone defense.

Summers then scored a final touchdown on a 12-yard run in the fourth quarter to seal Tonopah’s fate.

Evans said he didn’t plan to call passing plays as much, but Tonopah began crowding the line of scrimmage and clogging up the middle.

“On their down blocks (Tonopah) had to come up hard and pick two guys up instead of the normal one … I’ve always said that when you throw the ball bad things happen, but when you have mismatches, that’s how you have to go at them,” Evans said.

Evans plans to scout White Pine on Monday. The team will have a few days of rest before revving up for their next home game on Sept. 7 at 3:30 p.m. vs. the White Pine Bobcats.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.