The Mineral County High Serpents football team started its season with an easy win over the Lone Pine Eagles on Aug. 30.
The Serpents took an early lead in the contest when junior cornerback/wide receiver Tyshawn Bonner found the end zone.
The attempted two-point conversion failed, and the Serpents were up 6-0 early in the first. The Serpents attempted a two-point conversion after every time it scored.
A pass from senior quarterback Jared Keuhey connected in the end zone with junior wide receivers Wattie Balderama and Brady Cardenas. Both players leapt for the pass and landed in a heap, making it difficult to tell which was able to reel the pass in, but one of them did, making the score 12-0 Mineral County.
“The offense from last year is miles and miles ahead,” Keuhey said. “I really like what Mac is doing with the offense. There’s a lot that went right.”
Before the end of the quarter the Serpents would tack on another touchdown and 2-point conversion, bringing the score to 20-0 after 15 minutes.
The Serpents’ offense seemed to easily pick apart the Eagle’s defense. Mineral County linemen seemed to be able to move their opponents wherever they chose, especially in the first half.
Serpents’ head coach Curt “Mac” McElroy said one of the things he was most satisfied with was the way his linemen opened the field and adapted to the offense.
Keuhey echoed McElroy’s sentiments, saying he was able to stay in the pocket more, and when he was forced to take to his feet, he was able to “do something with it” more often.
“We shined at times,” he said.
While McElroy noted his team struggled at times, he was impressed by how they adapted to the complex offense in a game situation.
“These kids, it’s something new for them,” he said. “They’ve never seen an offense like we’re running with the shifts and the motions and that. There’s so many variables to what we can do as the year goes on once they start understanding that.”
The Serpents’ discipline slipped in the second, as players started jumping off the line, and fouls started to add up, but would see the end zone again before the Eagles were on the board.
“I just think there’s some things we need to work on,” McElroy said of penalties called against his team. “I think our kids got a little aggressive at times.”
Midway through the second quarter the Eagles put in a touchdown. A Serpent blocked the extra point, and the score was 28-6.
By halftime the lead had shrunk to 34-20. The Serpents seemed to lag offensively and defensively during the second and third quarters. Offensive production stalled and the team didn’t appear to have the same energy it started with.
“We started off in a flurry, and then we sort of went flat for a little while,” McElroy said. “And then we had a tough time getting the running game going again, so we came back and just started throwing the ball.”
In the third the Serpents allowed 10 more points, but found the end zone twice more, and by the end of the third it was 56-30 Mineral County.
Much of the scoreless fourth quarter was taken up by a lengthy Mineral County drive that was heavily delayed by penalties.
As fans from Hawthorne jeered, hissed and booed, the Serpents were called for one penalty after another, and were backed up from around Lone Pine’s 20 to its own 20.
“They were seeing penalties,” McElroy said of the officiating. “I saw the one that I thought was legitimate, but I didn’t think the others were legitimate, I think they were just trying to keep the score down, but you really can’t say anything about the refs, they’re doing their job the best they can. These things happen.”
Among the penalties called was intentional grounding on Keuhey.
“Discipline is the biggest thing,” he said. “We got up by a lot, there’s a few players, including myself, who were kinda getting cocky and we were making the stupid mistakes.”
The Serpents also found the end zone at least three times during that drive, but the run or pass was called back each time by a penalty.
But even after the penalties, the Eagles wasn’t able to come back.
McElroy said he was happy overall with his team’s performance, but that there was room for improvement.
“This was the first time we hit anyone but ourselves,” he said of the Serpents’ tackling. “I was pretty happy with the way we did hit, when we hit. We had a few missed tackles, and that cost us.”
He also said he plans to “shore up” some things on special teams.
In particular, McElroy said he was happy with the team’s defensive stands.
“I was really happy with the way the defense showed up to play the game,” he said. “We haven’t done a whole lot of work on defense because the offense is so complicated, I’m pretty proud of that.”
The Serpents will next face the Round Mountain Knights on Aug. 6 in another non-league conference.
The Knights dropped their first game at home against Carlin, 50-14.
“One down, now we start looking forward to Round Mountain next week,” McElroy summed up after the game.