When the Mineral County High football team traveled to Virginia City, the team had high hopes. By all indications, it would be a hard fought win for the team — the Serpents was coming off a four-game winning streak and a big win at home against Excel
Christian; and the Muckers had been embarrassed the week before by Pahranagat Valley, 44-0.
During the first quarter, the teams seemed evenly matched. Virginia City was up 7-6, but the Serpents defense was holding, despite a few key injuries. However, three lead changes in as many quarters later, the Muckers had come out ahead, 49-36.
“I’m dang proud of my kids,” said coach Curt McElroy. “They played well. […] With a score like that, obviously, we’ve got some things to work on, considering that we weren’t giving them points, and they fought back, we put it right there, and a missed tackled, and boom, score up by [the Muckers].”
The Serpents’ usually rigid defense struggled under a punished running attack by the Muckers, who racked up 369 yards rushing.
“It was a tough fought game,” said Collin Sanford, senior linebacker. “Some of our defensive plays, they didn’t really work out all that well.”
A few key injuries compounded the problem. Senior quarterback Jared Keuhey was out until Thursday, McElroy said, and senior linebacker Tommy “Rampage” Jackson was injured in an unrelated incident on Thursday. By the end of the game Brodie MacPherson, senior linebacker, was also injured.
“Right now we’re deep on [offensive] line and [defensive] line. Receivers, we’re good too. Running backs, two deep, but when it comes to linebackers we’re really not too deep on linebackers. The next linebacker’s a freshman and a sophomore,” McElroy said. “They’re coming along, but we’re just not quite ready for that.”
Jackson is expected to play in the next game. It’s unclear when MacPherson will return.
With the injuries, the Serpents’ containment — the ability to keep runners from making it outside of the field — was hurt, and it struggled to make tackles in the open field.
The Serpents also struggled to move the ball. The typically punishing, unpredictable running game was stopped by a sound Mucker defense.
“We could have performed better on offense,” Sanford said. “Our offense was kinda slacking all game long. They had a tough defense though, they’re a good team.”
With the running game halted, the Serpents took to the air, a strategy McElroy plans to employ next time his team encounters the Muckers, hopefully during the playoffs, he said.
“We know one thing. They don’t cover the pass well. We do know that,” McElroy said.
Passing accounted for most of the Serpents’ yardage. While he threw a pair of interceptions, Keuhey also threw a number of miraculous passes.
One such pass was to Sanford. The pair made their connection between the hands of two Mucker defenders about midfield, and Sanford ran the catch in for a touchdown.
“It’s not any one person’s fault,” McElroy said of the loss. “When it comes down to this loss, I’ll take the credit for the loss. That’s just the way it is. When we win, it’s the kids. When we lose, I’ve got to do a better job next week coaching.”
The Serpents’ next opponent will be Pyramid Lake. The Lakers (0-4) took a heartbreaking loss against Whittell last week, 0-4. McElroy said he didn’t know much about the Lakers, although the team is renowned for its size.
“I know they’re big,” McElroy said. “That I do know.”
The visiting Lakers will be up against the Serpents at home for the homecoming game on Oct. 4.
“It comes down, right now, to what kind of team are we going to be,” McElroy said. “Are we going to fight through the adversity, and fight to get back to what we were?”