The Lone Pine Golden Eagles haven’t lost their luster. With the 55-20 win over the Immanuel Christian Crusaders Friday, the Eagles are undefeated at 7-0 with nothing between them and Lone Pine’s first Hi-Lo championship but the Lee Vining Tigers, Nov. 4 at home.
Coach Chris Riesen gives the credit to his players, mostly seniors who know the game and are giving 100 percent.
“You can’t coach to a system in 8-man,” he said, “you have to coach your assets.” And the Eagles have some serious assets with a strong passing game in QB Robert Hunter, an anomaly in 8-man where the strategy is usually limited to the ground. Throw in a couple of wide receivers and running backs with speed, offensive and defensive lines that play tough and smart and you’ve got your 7-0 season.
The Crusaders got a taste of those assets in the first seconds of Lone Pine’s Homecoming game. Casey Sullivan was on the receiving end of the kick-off and wound his way through the Crusaders all the way to the end zone. A Hunter to Seth Muniz 2-point conversion put Lone Pine on the board 8-0 with 11:47 on the clock.
The Crusaders went four downs, losing 7 yards in the process. Staring down the field at Sullivan, Immanuel Christian tried for a first down with a QB sneak. It didn’t work and Lone Pine got the ball back deep in Crusader territory.
On third and long, Hunter handed off to Mike Palsrok who tore into the end zone. Lone Pine was ahead 14-0.
After an 11-play possession by Immanuel Christian, Lone Pine got the ball on a turn-over on downs at their own 29. Palsrok got the carry and was hit near midfield. A Crusader nailed him with his helmet as he was getting back up. Immanuel Christian got a 15-yard personal foul penalty; Palsrok got a trip to the emergency room.
“Losing Mike hurt us,” said Riesen.
On both offense and defense, Palsrok is a bull dog, a big-play bull dog. He came back to watch the end of the game and will be ready for Lee Vining in two weeks.
The Eagles finished the drive that Palsrok started with a 20-yard pass to Muniz for a TD and a 20-0 lead.
The second quarter was a slugfest. Lone Pine had to adapt to the loss of Palsrok; the Crusaders had to try to figure out how to move the ball against Lone Pine. The Crusaders’ back, Steven Soden, came into the game with a total of 846 rushing yards and left adding only 9 to that total. The containment of Soden forced all the offense onto quarterback Jimmy Taylor. Despite the fact Taylor is a scary-fast runner, he couldn’t consistently outrun the Eagles. Passing was also problematic for the Crusaders.
The Eagles scored their fourth TD midway through the second quarter. At third and 13 deep in Lone Pine territory, Hunter connected with Muniz who executed a well-blocked charge into the end zone and a 26-0 lead for the Eagles.
The Crusaders answered with their strongest drive of the half. Taylor found a receiver who was headed to the end zone when Eagle Alec Garcia ran him down to save the TD at the 8-yard line. After two tries, Taylor pushed his way over the goal line. The successful 2-point conversion put the Crusaders on the board at 26-8.
IC tried an on-side kick, but Lone Pine’s Gabe Galindo covered the ball giving the Eagles possession near midfield. From there, Hunter charged into Crusader territory and finished the drive with a 20-yard pass play to Sullivan and a successful 2-pointer. Score 34-8.
With less than a minute on the clock, Hunter went to Sullivan from the Crusaders29 for Lone Pine’s seventh TD. Set up for the point-after, Hunter, set to hold, lost the ball, picked it up and flung it to Sullivan, in mid-tackle, for a successful 2-pointer and Lone Pine extended the lead 42-8.
On the Eagles’ first possession of the second half from deep in Crusader territory, Hunter found Muniz open again for a 68-yard TD. Score: 48-8.
Eight minutes into the third quarter, the Crusaders’ Taylor, at third and 27, found Soden open, and the Crusaders added 6 to their score.
The fourth quarter started with a turn-over on downs by Lone Pine. Immanuel Christian’s possession lasted for two plays until Sullivan recovered a fumble on the Crusaders 1-foot line. Lone Pine capitalized with a Hunter TD, extending the lead 55-14.
With the clock running and Eagles’ subs on the field, Dakota Harwood intercepted a Lone Pine pass and ran it back for a TD. With 24 seconds left on the clock and coach Riesen on the receiving end of a Gatorade dunk, the game ended 55-20.
With 7-down, only Lee Vining sits between the Eagles and the league banner.