Change some of the names and numbers and the Lone Pine Golden Eagles season opener against the Mineral County Serpents would sound a whole lot like the Broncos football opener against the Heralds. The Eagles fell 56-30 to the Serpents, but there is cause for hope in south county.
It took three days for Eagles coach John Kane’s voice to return to normal, that should give you an idea of what kind of night it was Friday, Aug. 30. “We had some bright spots,” he said. “We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.” Kane knew he had a team with players who were young and/or inexperienced; he’s got four players with previous game time, but he’s got talent he feels will develop as the season goes on. Noting Alec Garcia, Juan Gutierez and Doug Moore, Kane said “you can coach players but you can’t teach the speed that Garcia and Gutierez have or the moves Moore has.” One thing Kane knows he’s got covered is the kicking part of the game. Between Ivan Camacho and Edgar Perez, punts, field goals and kick-offs will be long-distance things of beauty.
The Eagles have to improve their offensive line to help sophomore quarterback Bryce Benites and Kane is confident that will happen.
“Milton Mendoza had a good game defensively,” Kane said. “P.J. Zrelak pounded out the yards and made some great tackles; defensive ends Tanner Whisler and Josh Mendez had good games and Kyler Francone was good. This was his first football game. We have a lot of potential; we’ll get better every week.”
First-game jitters plagued the Eagles through the first quarter. Lone Pine got a good run-back on the kick-off, but froze on its 23-yard line and had to punt the ball to the Serpents who scored on their first, then their second possession to take an early 12-0 lead.
A Serpent-recovered fumble with less than a minute on the board led to the third unanswered Mineral County TD; the 2-point conversion increased the lead to 20-0 going into the second quarter. The Serpents scored on their first possession in the second quarter, completed the conversion extending the lead 28-0.
With 8:24 on the clock, Garcia took the Serpent’s punt 14 yards to give the Eagles decent field position on their own 30. Moore wove through tacklers to put the ball on Mineral County’s 5, then finished the drive blasting up the middle for an Eagles TD. With the first nibble out of the Serpents’ lead at 28-6, an energized defense forced a punt after holding the Serpents to an 8-yard gain in three plays.
That gun blast heard in Lone Pine with roughly five minutes left in the half was the Eagles shooting themselves in their collective feet. On their own 30, the Eagles fumbled the ball and the Serpents recovered well into Lone Pine territory. The brilliant Eagles came back with a QB sack by Mendoza, forcing a punt. Garcia took the ball way deep, at the 3-yard line, and with an escort of blockers went the distance, 77 yards for a TD. The PAT was good and Lone Pine took another bite out of the lead at 28-13.
Mineral County answered with a 24-yard TD in the air. Score: 34-13. With less than a minute on the clock, Lone Pine was ready for an offside kick, but had Garcia deep. The Serpents opted to send the ball to Garcia who wove through the defense for a 60-yard TD. The PAT was perfect and the Eagles were still in the game at 34-20.
Another passing TD for the Serpents opened the second half. Lone Pine went 32 yards on its first drive, but had to settle for a field goal. Score: 40-23. With just over a minute in the third quarter and two more Serpent TDs, the Eagles struck again. Serpent quarterback Jared Keuhey, went deep from Mineral County’s 20; Garcia intercepted the ball and went downfield for a 35-yard TD. Camacho’s kick was good. Score: 56-30.
The fourth quarter was a wash. The Eagles defense terrorized the Serpents but couldn’t get a break on offense. Mineral County’s first possession ended with three TDs called back on Serpent penalties, eating a ton off the clock. Moore put an end to a possession that included four third downs by knocking down a pass on the second Serpent fourth down conversion attempt.
Tomorrow, the Eagles head to Tonopah, Nev. to take on the Muckers.