It wasn’t until the end of the third quarter that it was apparent the Mineral County High football team’s season was going to come to an end in Coleville, where they fell to the Wolves, 52-34.
The contest had thus far been a shootout. Sixteen seconds into the contest the undefeated Bulldogs capped off a three-play drive with a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion, helped along by 25 yards worth of penalties called against the Serpents (7-2).
But the Serpents were not to be outdone, and ground their way down the field for a score of their own.
During the first quarter neither teams’ defense was able to keep the opponent scoreless, and it was 22-14 by the end of the first quarter. Both teams defense seemed to crystallize in the middle of the second, but the teams stayed neck and neck. At halftime the score was 22-22.
Both teams found the end zone again in the third, and it was 30-28 Coleville as the clock wound down. The Serpents had just come up with a big stop and marched back down the field.
Quarterback Jared Keuhey took the snap on fourth and goal with 20 seconds left in the quarter. But his pass was picked off at the 5 yard line by Coleville junior Joel Gomez. Gomez ran 55 yards before he was knocked out of bounds.
A few seconds later, early in the fourth, the Wolves ran in another touchdown.
It was a deficit the Serpents never overcame. Once they were behind by more than a score, the Serpents seemed to lose heart.
The Wolves would run up 14 more points in the fourth, while the Serpents crossed the goal line just once.
“We didn’t play ball,” said Serpents’ head coach Curt McElroy. “Offensively we were in the game with them. Defensively we just, we were real lethargic. It wasn’t our game.”
In many ways, the first drive set the tone of the game for the Serpents. The typically airtight defense allowed 426 yards, split almost evenly between the air and the ground. Penalties also plagued the team — it seemed the Serpents were called for a violation on every drive, sometimes on several consecutive plays.
The Serpents’ bane was the hard count.
A hard count is a tactic that hopes to draw players from the defense offsides with a series of loud calls similar to those used when a quarterback calls for the snap. Players who are paying attention to the quarterback instead of waiting for the ball to move frequently jump and cost their team yards.
“We talked about that this week, the hard counts and stuff, and we worked on it, and still jumped offsides,” McElroy said.
The defense also struggled to finish plays. Mineral County struggled to tackle its opponents and, instead of holding the Wolves to short gains had to chase them down the field.
“A couple stops and we’re in the game, if not winning the game,” McElroy said. “But we weren’t good enough today. They were a better team today.”
With the loss in Coleville, the Serpents’ football season comes to a disappointing end. The loss dashes whatever playoff hopes the squad from Mineral County had.
But victory on the football field wasn’t the only thing McElroy was after.
“I would have to say the team camaraderie and the way they took care of each other and treated each other [is the thing I’m most proud of], I think that that was very important,” he said. “We grew as a family; we grew together as we and us.”