By Kathi Bliss
After a first quarter marked by evenly-matched offensive drives and powerful defensive plays, the Lions struggled and finally ran out of steam as they took on a highly athletic Warrior squad in their home opener on Friday night.
The Warriors, giving Lion fans an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu, sprinted out of the gates to open the game with a 77-yard touchdown run on the first play.
However, the fans’ dismay was short-lived, when Lion Andy Dorado recovered a bobbled snap when the Lions’ defense forced a Warrior punt on their next drive.
The offense took over, gaining ground until Austin Garcia found his way across the line and Juan Ocampo split the uprights to tie the score at 7 with just over five minutes in the quarter.
Unfortunately, the Warriors did it again, receiving the ensuing kick and dashing it back 95 yards for another Warrior touchdown.
In what amounted to the Warrior offense’s second play of the game, the Warriors once again bobbled the snap, giving Tyresse Purefoy the chance to scoop up the ball inside the Lions’ 5-yard line and edge into the end zone. Ocampo made good once again, and the Lions were able to tie the game at 14 to close first-quarter scoring.
The Lions started to lose traction in the second quarter.
After breaking up a Warrior offensive drive at the Lions’ 8-yard line, the Lions took over, but a series of penalties and missteps forced the punt at fourth-and-18. The Warriors took the ball back inside the Lions’ 39, and quickly closed a pass play to jump out to the lead. The Warriors never looked back.
Intense pressure from the Warrior defense kept the Lions out of the red for the remainder of the first half, while Victoria West’s offense stacked up yet another touchdown.
As the seconds ticked off the clock, the Lions got within Ocampo’s striking distance, and were able to close on a 27-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half, ending for the break down 28-17.
The Warrior defense continued to neutralize the Lions in through the third quarter, while their offense put in a 31-yard field goal, and another touchdown to broaden the gap to 45-17.
The Lions tried to put together a comeback in the fourth quarter.
Shaking the rust from the first-half rains off the offense, the Lions started making strong offensive plays in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Logan Brown opened up an opportunity for the Lions when he connected a 35-yard pass to Stephon Houston. Houston picked up 30 yards more on the drive, setting up for Garcia to take a two-yard hop into the end zone. Houston then powered in for the conversion to make the score 45-25.
The Warriors answered on their next drive, breaking away from the Lions for a long run before Alain Garza was able to take down the ball runner in the red zone. The Warriors powered across the goal line one final time, with a good kick bringing the score to 52-25.
The Lions took their last chance on a long drive as time ran out. Opening with powerful runs from Vincent Nevels and Austin Garcia, the drive was punctuated when Houston broke out for a 55-yard sprint up the middle, putting the Lions in the position for one more score. Nevels broke through with 2:11 left on the clock, and Houston made the conversion, closing scoring at 52-33 as the Warriors chose to run out the clock.
The team’s desire to grow this season is what prompted the choice of powerful pre-season opponents, Head Coach Brian Herman reminded the team after the bitter loss on Friday night.
“If we continue to play easy teams, to get those wins, then we aren’t learning, and we aren’t getting what we need [to stand up to the District’s powerhouse teams]” he said. “But playing a team equal to those teams, better than those teams, that’s going to make us better when it comes time to play those teams.
That time is coming quickly. The Lions have one more pre-season game, against the LBJ Laredo Wolves, on Friday night. The Wolves went 7-3 overall last season and, like the Lions, have yet to pick up a victory this year. The game kicks off at South San Stadium, 2737 Bobcat Ln., in San Antonio.
Next week, the Lions will be on the road to open District play against the Seguin Matadors, and they will return to Lion Stadium on Friday, Sept. 23, when they take on the District powerhouse Boerne Champion Chargers.
(Additional information courtesy of Roland Girouard)