CHS stumbles in season opener
With his squad trailing 16-0 at halftime in the season opener against non-conference foe Glendora, Claremont High School football coach Mike Collins had one message for his players. Come out tough in the second half and pound them to the ground. Despite a resilient second half effort by the Pack, Glendora held on to a 23-15 win in the 2013 home opener.
The Wolfpack, which was without 7 offensive and defensive starters due to injuries, had troubling establishing their offensive game plan in the early going and were forced to punt twice, trailing 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. Spartan kicker Caleb Watkins put them on the board with a 30-yard field goal and quarterback Matt Fink connected with wide out Ryan Moore for a 35-yard score to add on 7 more.
The Spartans carried their offensive momentum into the second quarter, tallying 3 more points in the opening minute of the second quarter after a 42-yard field goal by Watkins. Claremont, on the other hand, carried their offensive woes into the second quarter with 2 straight fumbles, one of which was controversial on a drive that saw the Wolfpack convert 5 first downs and march inside the Spartans’ 20-yard line.
“We were driving down the field, and we got down to the 17-yard line,” Collins said. “I think our kid was stopped in progress, and there were 5 guys ripping the ball out. They rip the ball out late, and they call [a fumble]. That hurt. If we have that drive right there, we at least kick that field goal.”
At the half, Claremont trailed 16-0 and despite holding the Spartans to 6 points over the final 12 minutes of the first half, Coach Collins was not pleased with their first half performance.
“I thought our defense played uninspired, and even though we gave up 3 field goals in the first half, I still didn’t think we played super great,” Coach Collins said.
Knowing their best football was yet to come, Coach Collins and his staff challenged his team at the break to come out and play hard in the second half and prove that they can move the ball, primarily on the ground.
“We said we’re going to rely on our big lineman this year,” he said. “We got physical with them up front in the first half, but we were missing some blocking assignments.”
And almost instantaneously, in a dramatic turn of events, Claremont’s offense clicked. The Wolfpack tallied 15 unanswered points over the next 15 minutes, 12 of which came in the third quarter by virtue of both the offense and defense.
Sophomore running back Cameron Gray, a third-string dual sport athlete, broke free for a 25-yard touchdown run to put the Wolfpack on the board 16-6 after a failed 2-point conversion prevented Claremont from adding on more. On the ensuing Glendora drive, Claremont forced a fumble and senior defensive back Joseph Blash returned it 45 yards for the score to bring the Wolfpack within 4.
Claremont’s defense would continue to be a strongpoint heading into the fourth quarter, but an 80-yard touchdown pass from Fink to Briton Noskoff with 8 minutes remaining washed away any aspirations Claremont had of being victorious.
Senior quarterback and student body president Craig Myers finished with a very efficient night, recording a quarterback rating of 99 while completing 76 percent of his passes for 168 yards. Gray ended the night with a team-high 115 rushing yards and one touchdown. Claremont finished with a whopping 207 yards on the ground and 375 total yards.
Coach Collins certainly sees room for improvement on both sides of the ball, and he hopes to correct the mistakes made last Friday against Glendora as the Wolfpack prepare to take on Walnut next Friday.
“I think we need to break the tape down and see where we were inefficient,” Coach Collins said. “We really pride ourselves on breaking down tape. We break every play down intricately, and we’ll find out exactly what we’re doing wrong and correct it.”
As far as game planning and preparing for the Mustangs go, Coach Collins said it is not so much about the way they call the game, but more so about the way they execute said plays.
“We’ll see what we can do, but I think we’re going to stay with what we do,” he said. “Our offense is set, and our defense is set. We just need to get better at what we do.”
CHS will face Walnut High School on Friday, September 13 at 7 p.m. in Walnut.