Three words at half time said it all for the Thunder Mountain High School football team on Friday night.
“You are competing,” TMHS coach Bill Byouer voiced loudly to his team. “You are competing.”
On a night that began with smiles and hand shakes, hugs to parents and fans, and accolades to the Falcons’ senior players, the evening soon turned to a grind it out battle on the turf that resulted in a 27-0 loss to California’s Argonaut Mustangs.
Argonaut’s Ryan King scored four minutes into play on a 12-yard run and Emilio Pineda kicked the extra point.
“They nickel and dimed us,” Byouer said. “We never let them get any big runs and our guys stayed in there, but they move the ball on the ground well.”
The Mustangs Caleb Patrick scored on a two-yard plunge four minutes into the second quarter and five minutes later Anthony Chansler banged in from three yards out for a 21-0 lead.
“They are a powerful rushing team,” Byouer said. “That is why they are ranked high, it shows, they just have quality across the line. I was impressed with our kids though, they battled 6-foot and 290’s and were making them work.”
Between each score the Falcons Ben Jahn tried to maneuver his team through the trenches. TMHS’ first five possessions resulted in just one first down.
After a Mustangs field goal, Jahn hit senior Joe Ia on a pass good for 22 yards and the Falcons looked to be on the verge of a score.
Instead, the Mustang’s Pineda picked off Jahn with 49 seconds remaining. Pineda would intercept three passes on the night.
The Falcons trailed at halftime 24-0 and could have given in to a steady rain that began in the third quarter.
Instead, the Falcons defense held the Mustangs to three pointless possessions in the third quarter.
“We realized that we could compete with the big boys,” Byouer said. “As long as we use technique. Our defense worked hard. It is nothing but forward for our program.”
TMHS’ John Jolly picked up 16 yards on the Falcons third possession of the second half, then another four, and two more before the offense stalled.
The Falcons Ia recovered the team’s second fumble of the game on Argonaut’s next possession. Jahn then ran for seven yards to the 50, Jolly for 11 more and with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter Jolly again scampered 11 yards to threaten the scoreboard.
Again the Mustang defense picked off a pressured throw to end the drive.
With half the fourth quarter gone, the Mustangs kicked a 38-yard field goal for the final points of the game.
Neither team could move the ball on their final possessions.
“It was a win for us in how we stepped up,” Byouer said. “We know now that we can play football. I told them at halftime that we are not giving up. I asked them if we want to be a team that is just recognized for dominating southeast or do we want to be a team that is noticed across the board in Alaska that we can play football. The kids showed that they want to play football. The kids did not want to quit.”
Continued Byouer, “Yeah we lost. But did we learn from it? We learned a whole lot. We learned about character and who we are as a team.”
The Falcons will host the Homer Mariners on Friday in the semifinals of the medium school state playoffs.
How They Scored
8:13 Ryan King 12 yard run (Emilio Pineda kick) AHS 7 - TMHS 0
8:47 Caleb Patrick two yard run (Pineda kick) AHS 14 - TMHS 0
3:18 Anthony Chansler three yard run (Pineda kick) AHS 21 - TMHS 0
1:16 Pineda field goal AHS 24 - TMHS 0
6:50 Pineda field goal AHS 27 - TMHS 0