After watching the game film Saturday morning, SSHS coaches had a little different perspective.
“Nearly every single one of Damonte’s mistakes, except for the fumbled snaps, we forced,” Spanish Springs seventh-year coach Scott Hare said. “When we watched the film, we saw that we were drilling their running backs in the backfield while their quarterback was faking, which is why he dropped one and struggled at times.
“We blocked a punt and we had worked on that. Then you watch the film and the block in the game was identical to how we worked on it. I left Damonte thinking we got some gifts, but then I watched the film and I didn’t feel like those were gifts. Our guys made those happen.”
Hare also praised his defensive unit’s effort, holding the Mustangs to just two touchdowns on offense. A week earlier, Damonte’s all-league running back Drew Smith torched the North Valleys defense for 330 yards in the Mustangs season-opening win. He was bottled up by Spanish Springs defenders all night and limited to just 65 rushing yards.
“We were awesome on defense,” Hare said. “After the game, I’m not 100 percent sure why, but I felt like the defense was on the field a little too much, but I watched the film and realized how good we were. Right now, our defense and special teams, outside of kickoffs, is setting the tone for our team.”
Still, there are some areas of concern for the SSHS gridders. Hare just alluded to one. The Cougars’ kickoff coverage team needs some improvement and quickly. In two games, rarely has the first wave of Spanish Springs tacklers brought down a returner.
Cougar coaches know that must change.
“Yes that’s definitely concerning,” Hare said. “And it’s not like we’re emptying our bench to play special teams. If you look at our kickoff coverage teams, those are our number ones or the next guys in. Those guys should be able to shed a block and make a play. This is the second year in a row now our kickoff coverage team has been a source of frustration so it can’t be just the 11 guys we’re putting out there. It’s also got to be the way we’re coaching it. We’re spending a lot of time on it and it’s something we want to get fixed.”
There was one area for Spanish Springs that looked dramatically different in Week 2 compared to its showing in the Week 1 romp over Bishop Manogue.
Against the Miners in the season opener, the Cougars used a hurry-up no-huddle offense. The dividends that paid were easily apparent as Manogue was limited in its ability to substitute and was caught out of position time and again. Additionally the Miners’ defense tired quickly, not used to the Cougars’ speedy tempo.
That fast-paced offense was nowhere to be seen at Damonte. Spanish Springs still ran its no-huddle scheme, but there was no hurry-up to it. Hare said much of the blame falls to him.
“I didn’t have a great game (calling the offense),” Hare said. “We are all learning this new system. I will get better and the kids will get better. There were a couple times where we looked like chickens with our heads cut off and obviously that starts with me.
“Damonte threw us for a loop a little bit in the first half. They changed the structure of what they were doing on defense and that slowed us down a bit. We’ve got to stay in the fast pace or just slow it down. We were in no-man’s land. We were not in our normal tempo. There was no fluidity to it. We had to yell through the wind and Hunter’s sore ankle affected me a little bit. His ankle was much worse than people realized and he gritted through it.”
Cougars junior signal caller Hunter Fralick rolled his ankle early in the first quarter after landing on a Damonte defender on jump pass. Hare said that minor injury affected Fralick’s ability to run the ball and keep the Mustangs defense honest. He stressed that his talented junior QB, with some therapy this week, should be ready to play in the Cougars Week 3 road game at Inderkum of Sacramento Sept. 7.