By Ted Waddell
GRAHAMSVILLE September 8, 2000 Saturdays football season opener for the Tri-Valley Bears turned into penalty plagued loss for the home team, blanked by the Blazers of Millbrook 21-0 in a Class D contest.
Although the Bears got bashed, it wasnt for lack of heart on the playing field or support from teammates on the sidelines, but rather a combination of loads of yellow flags (at least seven in the first period) and some unlucky slips on the way to breaking away for what seemed like substantial yardage on the soggy turf.
While the home team was busy stepping on its own tails, the T-V coaches were pulling out their hair along the sidelines as yellow penalty flags flew through the air like unwelcome confetti, signaling yet another mental lapse on the field.
Millbrook converted a home team fumble into a quick TD, while a couple of Bears recoveries netted no points.
To their credit, the Bears stopped a concerted Millbrook drive near the end zone with four minutes remaining in the first half, mostly behind some aggressive tackling by Durk Pearston.
On the ground, Pearston and Alex Felder picked up some yardage, but just couldnt make the gains they seemed headed for, as their horizons slipped out from under their cleats on the slippery field or a defensive player made a key tackle when it really counted.
Millbrook scored at 10:05 in the second period on a bootleg around the right side by QB Quinn Shaw. The 2-point conversion was stopped cold.
With about two seconds remaining in the third period, Millbrooks Jeremy Kelly caused a Bears fumble on the 35-yard line, and Ralph Fedele ran it into the end zone to give the visitors a 12-0 lead. A 2-point conversion by Anthony Cillis put Millbrook up 14-0.
A 15-yard TD pass by Shaw to Perry Owens stopped the clock with 3:07 remaining in the game. Pat Burkowskies PAT closed out the scoring at 21-0.
I thought the game was closer than the final score [indicated], said Blazers coach Denny Riva. Tri-Valley played very well. I think that what hurt them was all the penalties they sustained
that hurt them a lot.
I felt we were the better team today, but I dont know if we were twenty-one points better, he added. Tri-Valley was much better than the final score showed.
Referring to the almost sauna-like conditions of the playing field, Riva said, I think both teams played with a lot of heart. It was a tough day to play football.
Riva gave up coaching Blazers varsity football teams 16 years ago, but came back last year in an effort to turn around a losing program: at one time, Millbrook held the dubious distinction of having the longest losing streak in the state.
That didnt sit well with me, said Riva. I came back because I wanted to bring back respectability to this program.
Max Stolzenberg has been coaching Bears varsity football squads since 1993 and his team is the defending Class D sectional champ..
I think were a better team than we showed today, he said. We made too many mistakes. Millbrook played well and they executed, but we kept making the same mistakes and we didnt correct ourselves.
According to Stolzenberg, during Saturdays season opener for both teams, his defensive ends got caught inside and the home teams tackling technique was not as good as it should have been today.
With a young team, youre going to have these problems, he added. You cant win ball games making these mistakes.
Looking for the silver lining in the 21-0 loss, Stolzenberg said that some of the penalties were caused by hustle and a few of the mistakes were the result of slipping on the wet field.
We have to put it together and play hard for the next six weeks and then we get another divisional game, and well see what happens, he said. We have to stay healthy, focused and get better.
For the 2000 football season, the Bears have five seniors on the team: Corey Dowe, Billy Gorman, Josh Lowitz, Ryan Milk and Durk Pearston.
Stolzenberg dusted off his coachs crystal ball for an early season peek at the team after Saturdays outing. Durk Pearston runs hard and hes good
Alex Felder is inexperienced, hes still learning the system, it doesnt look like hes running hard, [but] he just glides, hes smooth
Chris Harte ran the ball well on a couple of traps
[and] Billy Gorman played well for his first varsity game.
Were young and inexperienced, said Stolzenberg. Theyre stepping up to a whole new level and a different environment.