ZEPHYR COVE - Lesson learned.
Whittell High School football players anguished waiting for their next football game following a season-opening upset loss at Silver Stage on Saturday.
On Thursday in their home opener, the Warriors emphatically bounced back with a 42-6 drubbing of Dayton's junior varsity in a nonleague game. The Warriors made six quarterback sacks and limited Dayton to 22 total yards of offense to even their season record at 1-1.
"Obviously, they did what they were supposed to. If we are going to do anything in league, we needed to play hard tonight," said Whittell coach David Atherton. "We know our potential, and we didn't play at it last week.
"The embarrassment with the way we played last week, aggressive is what we stressed this week as coaches. We ran a lot of drills, and they were very intense practices."
Senior running back Cody Nelson engaged the offense, rushing for 100 yards and three touchdowns. "We definitely wanted to get back on the field," Nelson said. "We needed to come out hard. We had a bunch of enthusiasm and got that fire burning again."
Freshman Austin Buyak set the defensive tone for the Warriors by scooping up a pass behind the line of scrimmage and racing 70 yards for a touchdown only a minute into the game.
After Dayton's first complete offensive series netted -25 yards, including sacks by Buyak and Nelson, the Warriors utilized a 21-yard punt return by Adam Laub to set up their offense on the Dayton 13. Keeping the ball on the ground, the Warriors scored four plays later on a 1-yard run by Nelson to go ahead 13-0.
But Dayton nearly wiped out the Whittell lead later in the first quarter. Geiger McElroy picked off a Buyak pass and bolted 55 yards for Dayton's only score with 4 minutes, 46 seconds left in the quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Dust Devils caught the Warriors by surprise with a squib kick, recovering the free ball at the Whittell 45.
"Little stuff like that is OK to happen early in the season because now we learn. It will never happen again," Atherton said.
Aided by a pass interference penalty Dayton drove inside the Whittell 10. But the Warriors' made a goal-line stand, stopping Lucas Jones for no gain on fourth and goal at the 1.
"We take huge pride in our defense," Nelson said. "Our defense was very hungry after last week. We were looking for a team to come out and put 11 hats on the ball and stop them every time."
Whittell followed with a 99-yard drive that culminated in a 31-yard scoring pass from Buyak to Laub on a slant pattern, providing the Warriors with a 20-6 lead.
To read more about the game and other prep events from Thursday, go to tahoedailytribune.com
The Warriors added touchdown runs of four and 16 yards by Nelson and a seven-yard score by Phil Gielow to bury Dayton.
Most of the second half was played with a running clock, and Whittell ended the game with another goal-line stand.
Whittell plays a nonleague game at Quincy a week from today.