Just one week after a close loss in Virginia City, the Mineral County High Serpents football team got back in its groove, taking an easy win at home against Pyramid Lake, 62-6.
With the win, the Serpents’ record improved to 5-1 (2-1 in conference play).
The Lakers are a physically imposing team, the only team the Serpents have met this season whose players seemed larger than those from Hawthorne.
In front of a home-town crowd on Homecoming, the Serpents sent away the opening kickoff. After easily stopping the Lakers’ offense, the Serpents scored on their first possession after just six minutes.
If there were any doubts about Mineral County’s ability to put points on the board, the Serpents spent the first half putting those doubts to rest, and were up 42-6 at halftime.
At halftime Cecil, the Serpents’ enormous aquatic mascot circled the field twice, mournfully calling for his mate in Pyramid Lake, followed by the floats constructed by the high school classes.
When play resumed, so did the Serpents’ combined air and ground attack.
Senior quarterback Jarred Keuhey threw for 100 yards and four touchdowns.
After throwing several interceptions against Virginia City last week, some were concerned about his confidence in his own ability to throw.
“He felt that he lost the game for us,” said coach Curt McElroy of Keuhey. “Like I told him, I said there’s eight guys out there on that football field. There’s eight guys out there on defense, you don’t play defense, you can’t make those tackles we [weren’t] making. […]
“We all have those problems, we all have those turnovers.”
Keuhey was able to find targets most of the night with little difficulty.
Collin Sanford caught a 38-yard touchdown pass; Wattie Balderrama had four catches, including a touchdown; Tyshawn Bonner had two grabs for 23 yards and a touchdown; and Brady Cardenas pulled in a 20-yard touchdown pass.
The Serpents ground game was equally punishing, grinding out the majority of the team’s offensive production.
Keuhey lead the charge on the ground with 165 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries; and Sanford carried the ball eight times for 54 yards and a two-point conversion.
The defense also held strong.
While occasionally the team struggled to make tackles — the Serpents was called a few times for facemask penalties, and couple runners slipped past defenders — the Serpents’ line seemed impenetrable once again.
“We worked really hard on lower body tackling and tackling the legs,” McElroy said. “I think our kids did a great job of tackling the legs on these big backs that they had.”
Arm tackles are one of the most frequent banes of the Serpents, and can severely hamper the effectiveness of a defense.
“When you’re tackling high, you’ll miss the hit because they can shuck you off easier,” said Thomas “Rampage” Jackson, Serpents senior linebacker. “When you tackle low you can take their legs out and they can’t go anywhere.”
With the return of senior linebackers Jackson and Brodie MacPherson the defense played with its customary energy and aggression.
Jackson seemed omnipresent on defense. On the few occasions when he was not involved in a tackle, his presence seemed to give the rest of the squad confidence.
“When they’re all out there they gel, they’re tough to run against,” McElroy said of the Serpents’ defense.
The team gave up only 209 yards and a single touchdown over the course of the game.
“If you didn’t have defense, it wouldn’t be much of a competition,” Jackson said. “The defense is there to stop the other team, the other offense, to get past them and push them back as far as you can so the offense can get the ball and can score easier.”
The offensive line kept Keuhey on his feet for most of the game. Pyramid Lake’s statistics from the game don’t show any sacks.
Even the special teams, an area where the Serpents have struggled so far this season, were greatly improved. The Lakers seldom started an offensive series in Serpents territory.
“We took some of the other guys and we just told them ‘Hey, you’re going to play [on special teams,] and if you don’t play, then you won’t play on offense of defense either,’” McElroy said.
Special teams plays are one area where McElroy often tries to play the younger players, he said.
“We just weren’t getting things done, and we’re down to the nuts and bolts of the season, and we just can’t afford a loss right now,” he said.
The Serpents will take to the field again on Friday against Smith Valley.
McElroy said he didn’t know much about the Bulldogs, other than they’re a large team.
“I think it will be a good challenge,” Jackson said. “But I think we’re ready for it. We’ve got a real put together team.”