The game was over almost before it began.
When the Mineral County High school football team traveled to Round Mountain High, it seemed to have every advantage of its opponents.
The Serpents were bigger. They were stronger. They were more numerous—the Knights were only able to suit up 11 players.
And these advantages told. The Serpents manhandled the Knights, 58-6.
Before the game, Serpents head coach Curt McElroy cautioned his team not to let any of these advantages go to their heads. And the Serpents didn’t.
The Knights won the coin toss, but it was the Serpents (2-0) who scored on the game’s first series.
Just a minute and a half into the game Tyshawn Bonner, junior defensive end and tight end, picked up a Knights fumble and returned it for a touchdown. The two-point conversion was good, and the Serpents went up 8-0.
The rest of the game proceeded at much the same pace.
By the end of the game, Bonner would rack up a catch for 10 yards; a 9-yard run; and eight tackles and two assists.
Ten minutes later, the Serpents were up, 30-0. Just before the buzzer sounded at the end of the first quarter, the Knights scored its only touchdown on a long catch and run. At the end of the first quarter, it was 30-6, Serpents.
The Serpents came back out of the gate with a vengeance after the score, and by the end of the first half, it was up 50-6.
“I thought tonight went real well,” said Curt McElroy, Serpents head coach, after the game. “We patched up a few things that we had to patch up […] We got our running game going consistently, we got our passing game going consistently.”
For the entire first half it seemed as if the Serpents could do no wrong. The defense easily held the Knights advances, and the offense exploded across the line. On several occasions, plays seemed to go sour until Jared Keuhey, the Serpents’ senior quarterback, exploded out of the pocket, often for a touchdown. By the end of the night, he had 125 yards from 10 carries and four touchdowns — nearly half of the Serpents yards on the ground.
He also completed six of nine passes for 82 yards.
His favorite receivers were senior Collin Sanford, who caught two passes for 43 yards, and had 10 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown; and Brady Cardenas, who had two catches for 16 yards.
The slippery Wattie Balderrama, junior fullback, also added to the team’s success in the first half. Balderrama ran four times for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a pair of runs that ended just outside the end zone. Balderrama also caught a 3-yard pass from Keuhey, and had four tackles, an assist and an interception.
“The team played good, the defense was really strong, offense we were doing good, it was perfect, a really good game,” he said. “Everything went right. People were running their routes, linebackers were sticking with their holds, our defensive ends, they were containing and the corners were covering just perfect.”
At half time, McElroy called for his team to focus.
“I told them ‘We scored 50 points in the first half, but it’s 0-0,’” he said. “If we can score 50, anybody can score 50.”
League rules call for the game to play on a running clock if one team is up by 45 points or more and, although the Serpents were only up 44, both coaches agreed to play the second half with a running clock.
The offensive starters came out of the game periodically throughout the third and fourth quarters, but the Serpents were still able to tack on another touchdown. The conversion was good, and it was 58-6.
In the third and fourth quarters the defense held strong, including a spectacular red-zone hold to ruin the Knight’s hopes of a late touchdown.
“Our defense, they get up there and they get after it,” McElroy said. “You look across that entire defensive line, and they’re tough. They’re not only tough, they’re mean individuals up there.”
Tommy Jackson, senior outside linebacker, lead the defense with nine tackles and two assists.
Sanford and senior Victor Williams each added eight tackles. Sanford also had an assist and two sacks; Williams four and four sacks.
“I just look and know he’s going to get tackled,” Williams said of the feeling he has just before a sack. He also said he plans to work on getting lower, and wrapping up more on his tackles.
Junior Brodie Macpherson had six tackles and had three assists; sophomores Isaiah Crowl, and Dakota Dillard each had three tackles; sophomore Chandler Isom had two tackles; and senior Brady Cardenas, freshman Chance Sterns, freshman Dempsey Quintero, and freshman Eddie Dunnett each had a tackle.
The Serpents running game was rounded out by Williams, who had 35 yards and a touchdown on his only rush; Sheldon Self, who lost three yards, net on two yards, and recovered a fumble; and freshman Brandon West who was tackled in the backfield for a loss of three yards on his only run.
Williams and McElroy said the team worked on the special teams during the week, and both seemed pleased with the squad’s performance — the special teams didn’t allow any points.
The Serpents next opponent is Big Pine High in Big Pine. The Warriors fell in its first, and so far only, outing at Alpaugh High, 34-0.
“I don’t know very much about [Big Pine]” McElroy said. “I heard they didn’t have a program this year, but they do have a program this year.
“Anybody that we play right now is going to have a tough time with this group of young men. They bought into the we and us. They’re family.”