he scoreboard told one story Friday night. The Neah-Kah-Nie coach saw something more.
By Brad Mosher
According to the coach, Scott Ross, the score didn’t tell the complete story Friday when the 4A Cardinals handed the Pirates a 49-16 loss at home.
“Our kids didn’t give up,” Ross said. “They really improved over last week. They battled to the end. They have a lot of pride and they just keep fighting.”
The Pirates were on the verge of being shut out at home before they were able to come up with two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game.
“We are just 22 kids, so after a while we were starting to wear down a little bit,” he said. “Our kids, they battled. They worked hard.
“It is about execution for us right now,” he added.
After the game, he told the players that execution was the difference. The Cardinals just executed better – but he said that except for some crucial mistakes and penalties, he thought they had played well against the Cards.
“They are pretty solid,” Ross said about the team that handed the Pirates the second loss of the season.
Omar Arena came up with one interception and almost picked off a second one. “That was our first of the year,” Ross said. “He had a chance (for the second interception). If he would have been a little more aggressive, he would have had it.” Ross added that Arena had to wrestle with a receiver for the first interception.
The team is still learning, the coach added. “It is just execution. Execution. Execution.”
One play that seemed to continuously hurt the Pirates was when the Cards went into their bag of tricks.
Corbett running back Devin Weien connected on several pass option plays for big gains against the Neah-Kah-Nie defense.
“That halfback pass – they hurt us with that. Then they did the little ‘Tim Tebow’ jump pass down there at the end zone. That is just the need for our kids to make the right read,” Ross said. “A lot of times, we were reading run, and it was a play action pass so we were out of alignment.”
After scoring once in the first quarter, the Cardinals added three more to take a 27-0 halftime lead.
One of those plays where the Pirates were out of alignment was on a fourth down play where Weien hit Adam Conrad in the end zone on a fourth-and-four play with 10:14 left in the fourth quarter. With a two-point conversion, the Cards had a 35-0 lead.
On the next series, the Pirates moved down to the nine-yard line before mistakes moved them back and turned the ball over on downs at the 11-yard line. The Pirate defense stopped the Cards, forcing the visitors to punt.
Quarterback Max Halverson sparked the offense with a nine-yard gain, then Willie Davidson broke free for a score from near midfield. Halverson scrambled for the two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 35-8.
Corbett’s Wyatt Miller ran the kickoff down the left sideline to make the score 43-8 after they added the conversion.
“I hate kickoff returns. That was just a breakdown in coverage. The kid came over to me after the play and told me ‘it was my fault.’ So he knew the mistake that he had made. Let’s just hope he learns from that and doesn’t do it again.
“We don’t give up many kickoff returns here. That is only the second one I can remember,” the coach said.
The Cardinals scored again after Neah-Kah-Nie fumbled on the first play of the next series. Austin Arnold ran in for the score from the 17-yard line on the first play.
Neah-Kah-Nie’s Garrett Meyer sacked the quarterback on the two-point conversion, leaving the score at 49-8.
On the next series, Halverson took the ball and led the Pirates down the field, scoring from 22 yards with 2:33 left in the game. Halverson added the conversion for a 49-16 score on the board.
The Pirates lost the services of quarterback Halverson for a while in the second half. “The kid plays hard. Last week, we pulled him out at the start of the fourth quarter because he was exhausted. He’s a tough kid.
“Tonight, he got a little bit of a ding in the ribs. But, he went back in.
His departure stalled a Pirate drive deep in the the Cards’ red zone in the second half.
On one series, the Pirates had the ball inside the Corbett one-yard line, but mistakes pushed them back. On another, the Pirates lost a fumble.
“One of the reasons we are playing this 3A/4A preseason is that we are trying to get ready for the physicality of our league.
“We are getting better. We played a lot better this week than we did last week,” he said. “We just gave up too many big plays. Those last three or four touchdowns we had our JV trying to get some time in.”
The one thing that really upset Ross and the coach staff was right after Neah-Kah-Nie scored its first touchdown, the Cards came back with a kickoff return for a score.
He praised Greg Elligsen and Meyer for their play on the defensive side of the ball. “They are our two ‘ranger rovers’ (outside linebackers). Arena improved quite a bit.” He also praised the play of Ivan Davidson.
“We had our share of mistakes, but those kids played a pretty solid game,” Ross said.
“Overall, even though the score doesn’t indicate it, I thought it was a pretty good game from our kids.
“Take away three or four big plays and …. who knows,” the coach added.
The Pirates play at Warrenton Friday at 7 p.m.next week, the Pirates travel to play 3A Warrenton, who buried Willamina by a 32-2 margin Friday. The Warriors (1-1) lost to Vernonia by a 58-0 score in the season opener for the Warriors.