SONORA – Sports are full of examples where the deck seems to be stacked against a team and the circumstances are stacked in one direction. In those examples, preparation and good practices end up meaning very little because everything seems to be stacked in the opposite direction.
That is what happened Friday night at Sonora High School’s Dunleavy Field when the Bret Harte Bullfrogs took on the Wildcats. When it was all said and done, the scoreboard read a resounding 69-0 defeat for the Bullfrogs after an emotional evening.
It was senior night for the Wildcats and similarly to homecoming, those games tend to get the home squad even more fired up than usual.
The game began with Bret Harte receiving the opening kick, which was pooched with the intent to limit playmaker Tyler Cabral’s opportunity to return a kick for a touchdown. After three rushing plays, the Bullfrogs generated 18 yards and a first down.
Momentum seemed to be building a little on the opening drive, but it stalled out. A loss of one-yard, followed by an incomplete pass set up a third-and-11 for sophomore quarterback Kenny Scott. The pass play on third down was unsuccessful and Scott was sacked, which forced a punt.
Bret Harte’s senior kicker Emanuel Nava sent off a high punt which forced the Sonora returner to call for a fair catch. As he ran up to field it, contact was made with a Bret Harte coverage team player. The contact also helped cause confusion and the punt was muffed with the ball hitting the turf. A Bret Harte defender recovered it, but there was a penalty for fair catch interference which overturned the change of possession.
New addition to the team was running back, Blake Berry, who talked about Bret Harte’s offensive game plan, saying, “We were trying to pound the middle and get it weak. Just get five yards. Our goal each play is to get five yards and if you do that, it is a first down every two plays.”
This simple approach seemed to work at times, but when there were negative plays, the Bullfrogs found it hard to recover.
Following the punt, it only took six plays for the Wildcats to score a touchdown. The scoring play was a 29-yard touchdown pass which was the first of five touchdowns on the night for Sonora’s quarterback. Three of the scores were through the air and two were on the ground.
“We have reads,” Bret Harte interim head coach Kelly Osborn said about his defense. “We have to have discipline. The defensive backs need to key in on certain things and let us know when it is run or pass and instead, we started looking into the backfield and didn’t do those reads. And they took advantage of it.”
Through the course of the game, there were not many bright spots for the Bullfrogs. The performance was marred by fumbles and it seemed every time there would be some momentum at the start of the drive generated by off-tackle runs from senior running back Drew O’Flinn, something negative would derail it.
One of the bright spots on defensive occurred when, midway through the third quarter, junior defensive lineman Thomas Grant recovered a Sonora fumble.
“It was a pull-fake to the quarterback and I read it well, so when he fumbled it, I was right there,” Grant said.
When asked about the defensive approach for the Bullfrogs coming into this game, Grant responded, “It was all about focusing on our gaps. We started following them quite well and we knew they shot up the middle quite often. We were ready.”
Recently the football team has been able to bolster its squad with some new players. One of those players was Berry, who saw some snaps in the second half.
“It was a real rush out there,” Berry said. “Being a playmaker is big, it's not your top job, but it falls on your shoulders and I was worried I would mess up. But, if you take it slow and know your job, plus stick to basics, you’ll do fine.”
Although the scoreboard did not reflect the sort of game Osborn was hoping for, he did see reason for optimism in the performance.
“I know the score doesn’t show it, but I’m proud of my guys and their fight,” Osborn said. “I look at the improvement we made from a mental standpoint from the Amador game and it’s big. We made a lot of mistakes, lots of fumbles, but the fight was always there.”
With a loss to Amador and Sonora, the Bullfrogs fall to a record of 2-5 with a 0-2 record in Mother Lode League play. Next week, they travel to Jackson to take on the Argonaut Mustangs, who have also had a year with significant struggles.
It is never easy to travel to Jackson and the Mustangs always find a way to produce a punishing run game, but this is the sort of team that the Bullfrogs were committed to beating when they designed the defense in the offseason. If the defense can be stout at the point of attack and limit the time of possession for the Mustangs, they can get themselves back in the win column.
Bret Harte’s JV team lost 45-0 Friday night to Sonora.