Spanish Springs (2-1) saw two drives stall in the red zone, and committed two turnovers in its own territory that turned into opponent’s points. The result was a 28-6 non-league road loss at Inderkum High.
The Cougars' defense turned in a valiant effort, keeping the SSHS gridders in contention most of the way. It needed to as well, considering Spanish Springs played without its all-league quarterback, junior Hunter Fralick. Cougars coach Scott Hare said his talented signal caller could have played if it were a league game, but he felt it was more important to give Fralick's sore ankle an extra week to heal.
"I'm not going to say it was just a couple mistakes here and there that cost us," Hare said. "How many reps do you give your back-up quarterback in the summer and in fall camp, 10 percent maybe?"
Junior Garrett Nauman got the starting nod under center for the Cougars and while he made a few mistakes, he made some plays as well. Hare said his Cougars got everything they could have asked from their reserve QB.
"This week we throw him in there and ask him to do everything,” Hare said. “He just doesn't get a lot of reps so he was put into a lot of situations he wasn't accustomed to. I'm proud of Garrett. He played his guts out. He played with everything he had."
Nauman finished 8-of-16 passing for 98 yards, but was intercepted twice. He also had six rushing attempts for 37 yards.
It was the one yard, or less, that Nauman didn't get that may have made the game a little more interesting. Spanish Springs trailed 21-6 with less than five minutes to go in the game. On a fourth-and-goal play from the 2, Nauman appeared to reach over the goal line but an official ruled his knee was down at the half yard line.
Instead of trimming the margin to one score in the final minutes, the Cougars turned the ball over on downs. Inderkum proceeded to go 99 yards on six plays and put the game well out of reach with a 34-yard touchdown run by CJ Spencer with 1:07 remaining on the game clock.
The game looked like it might get ugly in the first half. Already leading 14-0, Inderkum seemingly found an offensive rhythm. It drove down the field and had a first down at the Spanish Springs 38, but the drive stalled and the host Tigers turned the ball over on downs.
"Our defense played awesome," Hare said. "It was absolutely fantastic. I told the guys I was more proud of them tonight than I was after our two wins. We are swarming to the ball. We are containing some pretty good speed. Our defense was on the field a lot and it stood toe to toe with them."
After the change of possession, Spanish Springs took over at its own 48 and then went on its lone scoring drive of the contest. A pass interference call against Inderkum set the Cougars up at the IHS 20. A 17-yard run by Nauman moved the Cougars to the 3-yard line and CJ Carithers ran across the goal line from there for the touchdown.
The SSHS extra-point kick sailed wide left but the Cougars pulled to within 14-6 with 24 seconds showing on the second-quarter clock.
Inderkum had jumped ahead 14-0 after a 19-yard TD run by Tyler Deets, with 1:09 to go in the first quarter, and a 14-yard scoring run by Brandon Powell with 13 seconds left in the first quarter. That second touchdown came after the Tigers (2-0) picked off Nauman and got set up at the SSHS 47.
"We didn't know their quarterback wouldn't play until the game started," Inderkum coach Terry Stark said. "We stuck to our game plan and made plays when we needed to. I thought our defense played pretty well."
The scoreboard read 14-6 at halftime. Inderkum took advantage of a costly mistake by Spanish Springs to increase its lead to a pair of scores. Inderkum drove inside the SSHS red zone but turned the ball over on downs.
Spanish Springs took over at its own 13, but on its first play of the drive, a mishandled handoff turned into a lost fumble. Two players later, Eric Walters bolted into the end zone for Inderkum forging the Tigers on top 21-6. at the 4:03 mark of the third quarter.
The Inderkum defense stymied Spanish Springs most of the night, especially on the ground where the Cougars rushed for only 111 yards on 33 carries.
The Cougars get back on the gridiron Friday at Galena.