JACKSON – The Bret Harte High School defense took their positions across from the Argonaut High School offense on a fourth-and-1 play at the Bullfrog 31-yard line. Ten plays into the first drive of the second half, Argonaut had been moving the ball consistently in short gains. Earlier in the night, the Bret Harte special teams’ unit had blocked a field goal, but otherwise found it difficult to contain the Mustang attack. The ball was snapped and junior nose guard Kodiak Stephens stayed home and was able to make a tackle for loss.
Regardless of what the scoreboard said, the Bullfrogs continued to battle.
Both teams entered the contest with a 2-5 record, but Argonaut jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Although the game ended in a 35-0 loss on the road in Jackson, for the Bullfrogs, forcing the turnover on downs was a major departure for the defense in this game.
It was a classic tale of two halves. But in this case, rather than fading down the stretch, Bret Harte seemingly got stronger toward the end of the game. In the second half, the defense only surrendered one score, and forced a punt in addition to the turnover on downs.
It was not a good start to the game for the Bullfrogs, who came out flat. They received the opening kickoff and had a decent return by junior running back Tyler Cabral. The next three plays all went backwards and quickly the offense found itself punting on fourth-and-18. It was a 45-yard punt that flipped the field to ensure Argonaut did not have the advantage of a short field. Regardless of the good outcome on special teams, the Mustangs scored in just five plays.
What followed just added salt into the newly opened wound. On the ensuing kickoff, one of the Bret Harte up-men mishandled the pooch kick and the Mustangs recovered the ball on the Bullfrog 40. After four straight runs, which netted 23 yards, Bret Harte interim head Coach Kelly Osborn called a timeout to discuss the situation with his defense. On third-and-5 from the Bullfrog 17, Argonaut ran a play action pass which was deflected at the last second by junior defensive back Luis Vidales.
“Once the ball was snapped, I saw my guy go and I thought it was a vert,” stated Vidales after the game. “But then I saw him cut in, so I followed him and when he looked, I looked and I saw the ball coming and thought this was my time for the interception.”
Vidales was unable to make the spectacular one-handed play, but his pass deflection did force a field goal attempt which was blocked by Cabral and returned by junior Teyler Pullin to the Bret Harte 47.
Similarly to the previous drive, the Bret Harte offense simply could not get going, and after seven plays, was forced to punt again. Eight plays after the punt, the Mustangs found themselves in the end zone yet again.
“We have to play smarter football,” Osborn said. “An offense like this to me is like peeling an onion. You cannot side-step someone. You have to use your shoulder pads and crush that guy.”
On the ensuing kickoff the Mustangs once again pooched the kickoff and once again recovered it. Two plays later it was another touchdown for Argonaut.
The first half ended with a score of 28-0 in favor of the Mustangs, but there was a significant amount of fight in the bellies of the Bullfrogs and it showed in the second half.
“This team had the same record as we did, so we knew we could put up a fight and they would too,” Vidales said. “It didn’t happen in the first half, but we were strong in the second half.”
The sentiment was echoed by the Bullfrog coaches as well. Osborn added, “We made a couple of adjustments at half time. We had to get dialed in. We thought as a staff in the first half, the kids didn’t trust us.”
In the third and fourth quarters, the Bullfrogs were finally able to not only get defensive stops, but also find a rhythm on offense, although they did not score. Cabral received most of the carries, although senior running back Drew O’Flinn, who played the game with a cast on his left arm, had a couple key carries to generate first downs.
Even the passing game saw some success with sophomore quarterback Kenny Scott connecting with senior tight end Adam Ange and Pullin for completions.
When asked about the approach for the offense in the second half senior guard Kenneth Salvi said, “Go out and hit. There was a lot of hitting. I am an O-line guy, I do my job and hit. It was a lot of fun.”
Ultimately, the Bullfrogs were not able to come away with a road victory and with two games left in the season, the coaches and players want to finish on a strong note. The final home game of the season takes place next Friday with the Summerville Bears coming to Dorroh Field.
“Right now, we are focused on ourselves,” Osborn said. “We are trying to make ourselves better. We are not focusing on them (Summerville), but instead, we are concerned with what we are doing and bettering ourselves.”
Bret Harte lost to Argonaut 20-6 Friday night in Jackson.