LOOMIS, Calif. — The offense can score. The defense needs work.
It sums up Fallon’s 56-32 season-opening loss Saturday to Cardinal Newman (Calif.) at the Honor Bowl at Del Oro High School.
Down five players due to suspensions, the Greenwave hung tough with the Cardinals on a blistering afternoon until the fourth quarter. A physical back-and-forth display highlighted the first three quarters with Fallon taking a 32-28 lead after junior cornerback Aaron Bitter intercepted a pitch and returned it 40 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
But the next play was a punch in the gut as Kasey Mansen returned the kickoff 88 yards for a TD. The Cardinals iced the game in the fourth quarter when quarterback Jordon Brookshire hit Tommy Streb on a screen and Streb raced 84 yards for the score.
“That was a momentum swing,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said of the return. “Once we made a play, they made a play … and they made more plays than us.”
The second half was a wild ride as the lead changed hands three times in the third quarter. Trailing 21-14, Fallon used the familiar quick-strike to trim the lead.
Senior running back Nathan Heck busted loose for a 58-yard TD run 27 seconds in to the third quarter.
The Cardinals turned the ball over on downs on their ensuing possession on their own 32. Heck broke out for 17 yards, Charles Fulks added carries of nine and three yards to set up the Wave on the 3-yard line.
Senior quarterback Joe Pyle, making his first varsity start, rammed his way into the end zone to give Fallon a 26-21 lead.
“We ran the ball really well,” Hill said. “Nate had a good day. That bodes well for us the rest of the season.”
Brookshire, though, was the difference maker for the Cardinals. He countered with a 30-yard TD run to give Cardinal Newman a 28-26 lead.
The Cardinals’ read-option attack gave the Fallon defense fits as Brookshire and company chewed up the clock and the yardage with a physical running game.
“We have to tackle better,” Hill said. “We have to go back on film and see where we as coaches made mistakes and where we can get better as a team.”
Bitter’s heroics, though, would be short lived for Fallon. In addition, three missed extra points by Bradlee Stands kept the Wave from pulling even. Cardinal-Newman, meanwhile, did not miss a PAT.
The fourth quarter, though, was all Cardinals as their run game took its toll on the Fallon defense.
“They hit some plays on us and have some good athletes,” Hill said. “I think we wore down a little bit. The kids battled and played hard. When you play a good football program, they are going to stay on it.”
Fallon’s offense, meanwhile, once again showed its big-play capability through Heck’s legs, but the passing game was flat.
“The line gave me enough holes and then it was just me and the secondary,” Heck said. “Wheels just kind of came off the bus at the end.”
The Wave started the game hot as safety Connor Richardson recovered a fumble on Cardinals 32-yard line. Heck needed just two carries to cross the goal line including a 21-yard scamper for the opening score.
But Cardinal Newman methodically answered as Brookshire led a 72-yard drive and capped it with an 18-yard TD run.
Fallon, though, again turned to Heck on the next drive as he ripped off a 36-yard run followed by gains of 9 and 7 yards by Fulks to set up the Wave at the Cardinals 1.
Pyle bullied his way into the end zone for a 14-7 lead.
Tied at 14, Brookshire found Kasey Mansen for a 32-yard score to give the Cardinals a 21-14 halftime lead.
“I think it was the mental aspect,” senior Justin Hatfield said.
Despite the loss, Hill, Heck and Hatfield said the experience of the Honor Bowl was worth the trip. The event featured five games in two days and raised money for injured military veterans.
Before the games, each team listened to motivational speakers — veterans — in the locker rooms. After the game, each team received two awards — a Most Valuable Player and a Triple Impact Award for leadership on and off the field.
Heck was named the MVP, while Hatfield earned the Triple Impact Award.
“It was amazing,” Heck said.
“It was inspiring,” Hatfield added. “I’m honored (to win the award).
Four Northern Nevada teams — Reed, Damonte Ranch and Carson — competed in the Honor Bowl with Fallon having the best offensive showing. The Nevada teams all lost including a pair of blowouts as Carson lost 55-7 to Clayton Valley (Calif.) and Damonte Ranch falling by the same score to Elk Grove (Calif.). Reed nearly pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback but lost 19-16 to Clovis North (Calif.).
Although Fallon suffered a tough loss, Hill said the event was worth the trip and would return.
“I think this is an awesome event,” he said. “To do this for the veterans. Win or lose … it was a good experience for the kids. I was very proud of how hard the guys played.”