Thunder Mountain is off - and running - to a 2-0 start to the 2010 prep football season after a 23-12 home-opening win over Homer on Friday at Thunder Mountain High School.
After an 0-2 start to the 2009 season - the first in school history - Byouer said the reversal of fortune feels good.
"We came together that second week during the Kodiak game," he said of last season. "This year, we came together at practice, which is so much better."
And the Falcons, ranked No. 5 in the latest Alaska Sports Broadcast Network prep football poll, beat the No. 4 Mariners at their own game - on the ground.
"They have a really hard offense to work against," Byouer said. "They're wedging and coming straight at you, and your defensive linemen aren't using their strength. They're basically using their legs and piling them up so our outside linebackers can take care of stuff."
Do-it-all running back/linebacker Cameron Fronimos led the charge for Thunder Mountain, racking up 119 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Fronimos got involved in the passing game, too, connecting with receiver Donald Stokes for a two-point conversion. Stokes caught two balls for 70 yards on the night.
Fronimos, a rising sophomore, even led the defense with eight solo tackles against the old-school power rushing attack of the Mariners.
"It's hard to stop," Fronimos said of Homer's Double Wing offense. "They were cutting our linemen and it's just a big pile, and their quarterback (Ryan Cotney) is agile and he would climb over the pile and bust in and out.
"We stopped them as much as we could but they got a couple of runs up the middle with their quarterback. But they couldn't stop our running game, and that changed the game.
"That was the tempo for us - run, run, run."
Homer coach Cam Wyatt lamented his team's inability to seal the 'B' gap - between the guard and the tackle - where Fronimos and backfield mates Jesse Conrad and Ben Hotch ran wild. Conrad had 90 yards on 16 carries, and Hotch had 50 yards on just three carries, including a long run of 30 yards to set up the Falcons' final touchdown, putting the game out of reach.
"We have the athleticism; we just don't have the football knowledge yet," Wyatt said. "We've got the right players, we've got the right scheme, we just have to get our football sense - tackling and not giving up the 'B' gap. We can't give up five yards every time through the 'B' gap.
"It was no secret. Everybody knows (Fronimos) is going to get the ball."
Thunder Mountain never trailed and went 60-yards in 12 plays on its first drive, with Fronimos taking a pitch into the end zone from 7 yards out with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter for a 7-0 Falcons lead after the extra point.
Homer went three-and-out on its first drive but the Thunder Mountain offense stalled on fourth-and-1 after a false start penalty, and the Mariners took over on downs. Nine plays and 76 yards later, quarterback Ryan Cotney found receiver Robin Glosser open in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, and the Mariners trailed 7-6 with 9:51 left in the first half after a failed two-point conversion.
Thunder Mountain countered on its next possession, eating more than seven minutes off the clock with a 17-play drive that resulted in a touchdown pass from quarterback Camden Thomas to receiver Ben Jahn from five yards out. The Falcons faked the kick on the extra point, Fronimos found Stokes for a two-point conversion and TMHS led 15-6 at the break.
The teams traded possessions throughout the third quarter until an interception by Stokes on a fake punt set the Falcons up at the Mariner 35-yard line. Ben Hotch went up the middle before bouncing outside for a 30-yard gain, and Fronimos dove into the end zone on the very next play. Brad Soneson tacked on a two-point conversion off a sweep and Thunder Mountain led 23-6 with 7:40 to play.
The Mariners set the final score with a Cotney touchdown from 20 yards out with 3:47 left. Cotney plowed his way into the end zone after breaking several tackles.
Wyatt said he's confident his team will bounce back next week against Soldotna at home.
"It's football savvy," Wyatt explained where his team is lacking. "You have to get down and make a pile in there. It's simple football stuff;ake a pile, trust in yourself and let your team work together. We had a lot of individual efforts but not a good team effort. But it's still early, thank goodness."
Byouer said the Falcons did a lot of good things, but they also cost themselves some points with mistakes. Twice Thunder Mountain was called for a false start on fourth-and-1 and had a delay of game penalty on fourth-and-5. They also turned the ball over on downs in the early part of the fourth quarter after Thomas threw well behind a wide-open Stokes on fourth-and-10.
"It was 23-12 but I really thought we should have scored more. We had dumb things and again, it's the second game so we're still coming together," he said. "I feel very good about what we have in place this year. They're clicking, but we don't want to peak right now. We've got a lot of games to go and there are going to be tough teams out there. Every week we have to get better and better, and these guys are doing it."
Thunder Mountain hosts Nikiski at 8 p.m. Friday.
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