Football: Turnovers cost Wolves in 58-28 loss against Carlin
COLEVILLE – Overcoming turnovers against a playoff-caliber opponent can be a daunting challenge under the best of circumstances.
Even the unbeaten Coleville Wolves were no exception on Saturday afternoon when Carlin cashed in on numerous opportunities created by its defensive and special teams play for a 58-28 non-league 8-man football victory.
Carlin (5-1 overall, 1-0 Eastern A Division) scored five touchdowns off turnovers and added another on a blocked punt in the end zone to hand Coleville (5-1, 1-0 Western A) its first defeat at home in five years.
But Coleville coach Will Sandy knew beforehand that the young and under-sized Wolves would have their hands full against the physical Railroaders.
“Carlin was well prepared and they were disciplined,” Sandy said. “They knew what we were going to do and they got after us early. They’re so big, they just wore us down.”
Even when the Wolves appeared to be gaining momentum, Carlin produced big plays to turn the tide.
Trailing by only eight points shortly before halftime, linebacker Mat Randall stripped the ball on a running play and returned it 21 yards to midfield. But after an incompletion, Carlin’s Eric Woodall stepped in front of a sideline pass by quarterback Josiah Huhta and returned the interception 40 yards for a touchdown to make it 22-6 with 1:42 left in the second quarter.
Then Coleville appeared to get another spark when John “Buh” Hamilton broke a 65-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the second half to cut the deficit to 22-14. Center David Sandoval (5-7, 195) and guard Matt Algeo (5-6, 158) sprung blocks to create space in the middle, Hamilton stepped to his left to avoid a tackle and was off to the races.
However, the Railroaders came back to score 36 unanswered points and break the game open.
They began with a five-play drive capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Burris-Blaine to Woodall. Coleville turned the ball over on its next two possessions – on a Cameron Perry interception and Tanner McWhirter strip – which led to Carlin touchdowns. Then Ryan Gamble blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for another touchdown that extended Carlin’s lead to 50-14.
In addition to his blocked punt, Gamble was a factor on special teams with his kickoffs. Eight of nine found the end zone for touchbacks, which forced the Wolves to start from their own 15 each time.
The Wolves received some highlights from their young reserves late in the game. Freshman backup quarterback Matthew Clark completed his only pass, a fourth down throw over the middle to sophomore Tyler Pemberton for a 43-yard touchdown. And 5-foot-5, 130-pound sophomore Jacob Park ran hard to gain 58 yards on 12 carries, his last attempt resulting in a 3-yard touchdown run.
Coleville got two early breaks when Huhta and Nathan Hershey recovered fumbles to end Carlin’s opening two possessions. The Wolves were unable to cash in either time.
“We had our chances early,” Sandy said. “If we had been able to make a couple of plays and capitalize on those opportunities, it might have been a different game.”
The coach went on to add that Sandoval, a junior nose guard/center, and Randall, a senior linebacker/tight end, gave their usual all-around performances. Randall was credited with 11 tackles to go with one forced fumble and fumble recovery.
“Those two kids are unsung heroes,” Sandy said. “They’re undersized, but they play with a lot of heart. Neither one of those kids ever comes out of the game.”
Of course, it was a stinging defeat, especially coming at home. Ironically, Coleville’s last regular season loss before this had come on Sept. 19, 2008 at Carlin, 92-44. And the Wolves hadn’t lost at home since dropping a 54-36 verdict against Eureka on Oct. 14, 2006.
“This was the first loss at home for these seniors,” Sandy said.
Then again, being a non-league game, no playoff implications were at stake. The Wolves remain unbeaten in Western A play with important games against Virginia City, Pyramid Lake and Mineral County coming up. Coleville celebrates its homecoming this Saturday against the Virginia City Muckers (5-1), who are coming off a 51-0 victory against Mineral County.
“It’s a tossup right now,” Sandy said of the league championship race. “These next three games are all critical. I hope this woke us up without shaking our confidence.”
Note: Coleville graduates Jason Peters and Emmi Sandoval both received player of the week recognition for Grinnell College (Iowa) in its 43-35 home victory against Knox College on Saturday at Rosenbloom Field. Grinnell (4-2 overall). Peters (6-2, 225) was recognized as the top offensive player. The tight end caught a 24-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first quarter and his reception on a two-point conversion play gave the Pioneers a 29-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. And Sandoval (5-9, 190) was named rookie of the week for his play at defensive back and on special teams.