It was apparent Friday night that it was the first week of the 2012 season as the Pusch Ridge Lions took on Joy Christian Eagles (Glendale).
Dropped passes, and botched execution, on both sides, not to mention inconsistent officiating marred the first 12 minutes.
But the Eagles fixed their problems with three touchdowns in the second quarter en route to a 38-0 win.
The Eagles, a serious state title contender in 2011, remembered how good they could be, while the Lions remembered that they were playing with their two starting receivers sidelined with collarbone injuries.
Last year, the Eagles were 10-1 and averaged more than 60 points a game.
Jerardo Samarripas of the Eagles made the biggest impact of any player on the field. Even though he only touched the ball three times, he accounted for 130 yards and two touchdowns. His 22-yard rush early in the second quarter led to an 11-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Nick Henderson, which gave the Eagles a 6-0 lead.
Despite their injuries, the Lions passing game brought them down the field in the second quarter with a chance to make it 14-7.
Quarterback Jake Frithsen, in his second season as a starter, completed a couple of passes to get the Lions moving. Then, Frithsen found Ben Walker for a nine-yard completion and a 39-yard gain to take the ball down to the Eagles’ 20-yard line. But a sack destroyed the momentum, before Frithsen threw three incompletions.
Walker finished with three catches for 57 yards.
“We have a great quarterback,” Walker said. “He’s been going to NFL camps.”
However, the Lions had no solution for Samarripas. With the Pusch Ridge coaching staff beckoning for a deep drop back down the left side by their defensive backs, Samarripas caught a swing pass, found a hole in the secondary, and went 56 yards to pay dirt with less than a minute left in the first half. The touchdown by Samarripas gave the Eagles a 22-0 lead at halftime.
“We have to get back to fundamentals,” said first-year coach Troy Cropp. “Playing a team like Joy Christian in the first game will help.”
In the second half, Samarripas picked up where he left off, catching another swing pass and going 50 yards for a touchdown and a 30-0 lead for Joy Christian.
The Lions could’ve easily given up in the second half, but the defense continued to play hard.
After a first down completion put the Eagles inside the Lions 10-yard line, Kif Nichols came charging in and nailed a running back for a no gain. The Lions forced an incompletion, and held the Eagles to a four-yard completion, which would’ve forced a fourth down. Unfortunately, the Lions, already guilty of roughing the passer on the drive, were called for a personal foul, giving the Eagles a first-and-goal at the two. Henderson ran it in for the game’s final touchdown.
The Lions were flagged for 10 penalties, an area that will need to be improved in Friday’s home game against Empire.
Henderson finished with 12 completions on 18 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 36 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Lions, Frithsen passed for 100 yards. He was sacked five times.
“If the offensive line blocks for Frithsen we’ll be better,” Cropp said.
The Lions embark on a new season with a new program this year.
“It was great,” Walker said about the experience of playing a powerhouse like Joy Christian. “A new year with a new coach. We have a new lifting program.”
This was the season’s first week in several years the Lions actually played a game in the first week’s season. They have traditionally played a nine-game schedule.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a scrimmage,” Cropp said. “It’ll help.”
This Friday, August 31, the Lions will host Empire at 7p.m.