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The Lone Pine Eagles and head football coach John Kane learned a lot about the team in Tonopah, Nev. last Friday.
They learned they could play hard for nearly four hours.
They figured out the younger players could step up when two of the seniors were sidelined with injuries.
They now know theyâ€™ve got an offensive line to be reckoned with.
OK, the Eagles fell to the Tonopah Muckers, 65-45, in an epic game that was prolonged in the final minutes by penalty calls by meticulous referees. But those bright spots Kane saw in the teamâ€™s season opening loss were amplified in game two.
â€śIt was a positive game; Iâ€™m happy with the effort,â€ť said Kane. â€śThe offensive line had a vastly improved game. We kept fighting through to the end. I can see the progress; weâ€™re making steps each week.â€ť
One area of improvement for the Eagles: start better. The Muckers put 20 points on the board in the first six minutes of play. In the final 42 minutes of play, the Eagles answered point for point, but could never overcome that 20-point advantage.
On their fourth possession, starting near midfield after a strong kick-off return by Milton Mendoza, Lone Pine went to town. Quarterback Garrett Sullivan connected with a well-blocked Juan Gutierez for an 8-yard gain. On fourth down and under pressure from the Muckersâ€™ Sullivan found Doug Moore who dodged and wove his way to the Muckers 10.
At 4th and 8, the Eagles went for it again, this time with a short pass to Bryce Benites for the TD. The Eagles were on the scoreboard with just over a minute left in the quarter.
Unfortunately, the Muckers used the time for another TD, going into the second quarter with a 26-6 lead.
Gutierrez was deep on the kick-off and motored to the Muckers 10. A fumble at 2nd and 10 put the Eagles back to the 26 yard line. Benites, in as QB, charged up the middle to the 5 and Lone Pine scored on the next play. The point after was good and the Eagles had narrowed the Muckersâ€™ leaed to 26-13.
The game pendulum was swinging toward Lone Pine, but not very consistently. The Muckers suffered a touch of high-snapitis and Lone Pine recovered the ball at its own 25, but then went three and punted. Tonopah drove to Lone Pineâ€™s red zone, made it to the 10 and was stopped dead in its tracks. Jacob Waldt and Josh Mendez on the Eaglesâ€™ defense did some serious damage.
The Muckers turned the ball over on downs with four minutes left in the half but the Eagles fumbled it back to Tonopah who scored on a pass play taking a 32-13 lead at half-time.
The pendulum swung so hard back to the Eagles side, it smacked a few Muckers in its path. The Muckers were on the receiving end to start the third quarter at their own 15. A high snap was recovered by the Eagles at the 2 and Sullivan sprinted in for the TD, behind Mendez at center to narrow the score 32-19.
Tonopah scored 2 TDs and completed a 2-point conversion in the next three minutes to take its biggest lead of the game at 46-19.
Doug Moore returned the ball to mid-field on the kick-off. Sullivanâ€™s arm had been strong through the game and his accuracy got significantly better. On 4th and 5, he found Gutierez for a 35-yard TD pass. The PAT was good and the score was 46-26.
With four minutes left in the quarter, the Muckers scored on a big pass play, but Lone Pine came roaring back.
Eddy Ivey took the kick to the Muckers 37. A pass to Mendoza gave the Eagles a first down; Sullivan gained 8 on a keeper, then found Benites for a TD for a 53-32 score.
Tonopah put another quick 6 on the board, then intercepted a Lone Pine pass to regain possession. On Tonopahâ€™s second play of the possession, Benites returned the favor with an interception and a TD. The PAT was good and the margin narrowed at 59-39.
The Muckers started the fourth quarter with a TD pass. The Eagles answered with a 44-yard TD pass play to Benites. With 6:29 on the clock, the score was 65-45 and thatâ€™s where it stayed.
The Muckers tried for a final TD with seconds on the clock, but Ivey pulled down an interception.
Lone Pine hosts the Antelope Valley Eagles this Friday. This will be the non-golden Eaglesâ€™ first game of the season. Last year in pre-league, the Golden Eagles beat them soundly 45-6.