Red Devils fall to Ben Lomond, 39-21

Red Devil quarterback Cohen Morrow scampers in for a touchdown during the first half of Friday’s 39-21 loss to Ben Lomond Evanston will look to regroup Friday when they host South Summit at Kay Fackrell Stadium. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Big plays, penalties doom late comeback chances

It’s been said that a penalty can be called on any given play in a typical high school football game.

The officiating crew working the Evanston High School v. Ben Lomond contest at Kay Fackrell Stadium Friday night seemed intent on proving that theory — the game clocked in at a whopping three hours, with the first half alone stretching well past sundown. When the last flag was tucked safely away, the Scots returned to Ogden with a 39-21 Zero week win, spoiling the head coaching debut of the Red Devils’ Steve Moore, though the game was closer than the score might indicate.

“The first thing to note is that our kids didn’t quit — they played all four quarters, there was no let-up,” Moore said. “Obviously, with all the flags and penalties, it was hard to get in the flow of the game, get things going. And it wasn’t just us — it was Ben Lomond, as well. In fact, they may have had more penalties than us. But it was a long game, and the flow just never seemed to get going — it seemed like there was a penalty, dang near every play. But our kids played hard; they didn’t quit.”

The Scots scored on the opening drive of the game, a 7-yard touchdown pass from Manase Tuatagaloa to Hunter Christensen that took four minutes off the clock. It was the first of six touchdown passes on the night for Tuatagaloa, who finished the game with 528 yards passing.

“Ben Lomond was athletic, no doubt about it,” Moore said. “They looked good with what we saw before, and then in person — they have some athletes.”

Evanston answered at the start of the second quarter, when quarterback Cohen Morrow scored on a 2-yard keeper to make it 7-6. Jordan Mendez kicked the extra point to bring the game back to even at 7-7, and the Red Devils appeared to have the momentum.

With 3:18 to play in the first half, Christensen caught his second touchdown pass of the game, this time a 30-yard strike from Tuatagaloa, giving the Scots back the lead. A quick 3-and-out by Evanston gave the visitors the ball back with time to spare, and with 1:18 left in the half, Tuatagaloa threw his third touchdown pass of the game — a 10-yarder to Davian Munoz — and Ben Lomond led 20-7. A fake point-after attempt was picked off in the end zone by Drew Barker, and the Scots went into the break with a 20-7 lead.

“We need to work on staying in coverage,” Moore said. “We need to stay in our zones. I think we tried to help each other out too much on defense, and not just worry about your job. That got us out of position defensively a little bit. Those are things we need to fix — we can bend, but we can’t break, and I think we definitely broke, way too many times. We need to be more disciplined, on both sides of the ball. That will be a big key for us.”

The Red Devils pulled within six early in the third quarter, when Braunson Sims scooped up a fumble and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. Mendez converted the extra point, and Ben Lomond’s lead was cut to 20-14.

The momentum shift was short-lived. A nice return gave the Scots a short field on their next possession, and on the first play from scrimmage, Tuatagaloa hit Christensen for a 39-yard gain, down to the Evanston 14-yard line. Munoz caught his second touchdown pass of the game shortly after, and the extra point made it 27-14.

With 7:28 to play in the third quarter and the ball in Ben Lomond territory ,Morrow rolled right and found a wide-open Clayton Cook for a 38-yard touchdown, Cook’s first catch and score of his Red Devil career. Mendez’s extra point cut the lead to six, 27-21.

But just when it appeared the Red Devils had things rolling their way, Ben Lomond gambled yet again on their home run offense, with Tuatagoloa connecting with Munoz for a 65-yard touchdown on the Scots’ next possession to extend the lead to 33-21.

“Right when we’d get a big play, or score to close the gap a little bit, they’d break out and make a big play,” Moore said. “We’d find ourselves right back behind the 8-ball again. Right when you start thinking, ‘OK, here we come,’ something happened, and it set us back a little bit.”

The Red Devils found themselves deep in Ben Lomond territory one more time in the fourth quarter, behind some hard-nosed running from Brady Roberts. Penalties kept Evanston out of the end zone, however, and a turnover on downs ended the final scoring threat. The Scots scored once more in the final frame — a 58-yard touchdown strike from Tuatagaloa to Munoz — and Ben Lomond returned to Ogden with a 39-21 win.

Following the postgame handshakes, Moore and the rest of the coaching staff met with the players at midfield.

“We talked about adversity — we need to overcome that,” Moore said. “Obviously, the outcome wasn’t what we wanted. But we’re going to go back to the drawing board, we’re going to improve, we’re going to get better. It’s a life skill — things aren’t always going to go your way, or as expected. The important thing is how you respond. The kids will — we have great kids, our seniors are great leaders, and our goals are still within reach. This game won’t stop what we’re trying to achieve. The point of these early games is to find out who we are, and improve on what we do. All of those goals are definitely within our reach.”

Ben Lomond’s defense proved stingy, holding the Red Devils to just 157 yards of total offense — 63 yards on the ground and 94 yards passing. Morrow completed 14 passes for those 94 yards, with one touchdown and one interception; Cook was on the receiving end of the touchdown pass, with one catch for 38 yards. Drew Barker hauled in four balls for 53 yards, followed by two catches each for Gabe Hutchinson and Roberts, for five yards, and two yards, respectively. Kai Barker caught five passes for -4 yards.

On the ground, Roberts ran for 56 yards on 14 carries, followed by Hutchinson, with 23 yards on four carries. Aidan Liechty finished with 10 yards on three carries.

Evanston’s defense allowed 612 yards of total offense, a number not indicative of what the Red Devils are capable of. Braunson Sims led the team with 18 points (fumble recovery, touchdown), followed by Roberts with 17.5 points, including an interception and half a sack, combining with Grady Ivie for the only sack of the game on Tuatagaloa. Drew Barker finished the game with a pair of interceptions (three, if you count the one on a two-point conversion) and 16 points; Cohen Morrow was right behind him with 15. Tarrin Haws and Kai Barker collected 10 points apiece.

“The interceptions were nice,” Moore said. “We did have some of those, but we gave up way too many big plays. Offensively, we just never found a groove — never got going with the things we thought we could be successful with. They went man on us; we weren’t expecting that. That gave us some fits. But we think we can capitalize on that, if another team does that to us.”

The Red Devils are home again Friday, welcoming in South Summit (1-2).

“Watching film on South Summit, they are very, very physical,” Moore said. “They like to throw the ball around, but their running back runs the ball extremely hard. What I notice up front, is their O-line and D-line are physical across the board. They flat out get after you. We need to match that physicality, for sure.”

With practice this week, Moore said the team will concentrate more on what they can control, and less what they can’t — especially when it comes to calls on the field they may not agree with.

“We stress with the players, ‘Hey, we don’t need to talk. We don’t need to do anything but play. Let your play on the field do the talking,’” Moore said. “They just have to realize it is the way it is — it’s out of our control, to a certain degree. If we’re committing those penalties, we can obviously control that. But you just have to play, and realize that penalties are part of the game – adversity that you have to overcome. It’s important that we learn how to do that.”