In a handful of games this season, coach Randy Quinto noticed a concerning trend with his team.
A slow start.
And while dud first or second quarters didn’t cost Thunder Mountain High School against Southeast Conference opponents like Ketchikan, it sure did Saturday in the ASAA First National Bowl Series Division II Football Semifinals.
The Falcons trailed Palmer 21-0 at halftime, eventually falling 28-7. The Moose’s point total was 16 points more than any other team had scored on TMHS all season. North Pole lost in Week 6, 35-12, to Thunder Mountain.
“They scored on their first couple of drives and making it 14-nothing real quick,” TMHS head coach Randy Quinto said. “And then you’re forced to do things that you’re not comfortable with.”
The Moose marched down the field on their first and second drives of the game. Senior Jared Oviok — who finished the game with 95 yards — scored on a 7-yard run to put the Moose up 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
Larry Cutsforth missed two field goals late in the first half to give TMHS something positive to dwell on at halftime.
The Falcons looked to pass the ball on their limited offensive downs through two quarters. They would continue with that recipe in the third, with a few new ideas of where to find yards.
“We wanted to get outside to the perimeter a little bit … and that’s where we found some success with the passing game,” Quinto said.
Jacob Tapia brought elation to the TMHS sideline with a nice 17-yard touchdown grab just four minutes into the third quarter. The completion came shortly after a trick play that resulted in a Tapia 41-yard catch. Hansel Hinckle delivered the ball downfield to him by the left sideline.
“As with any team you practice a couple of trick plays every year that you have to pull out and obviously we needed to pull them out in the playoffs,” Quinto said. “There is no tomorrow so you pull out what you got.”
Early in the fourth quarter, following a 30-yard run by Roy Tupou, the Falcons had the ball in the red zone, looking to cut their deficit in half. On a fourth and two, Owen Mendoza pitched the ball to his right to Tupou, who was stopped near the line of scrimmage.
“You convert that and we’re down by a touchdown with almost a whole quarter to go,” TMHS defensive coordinator Derek Lofstrom said. “I think that deflated the team right there pretty badly and that’s when Palmer pretty much drove the length of the field and scored on us and put the game away.”
The Falcons finish their season 6-2. Palmer will play the winner of Saturday evening’s North Pole-Soldotna game in the championship Oct. 14 in Palmer.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.