New Plymouth’s Luke Eames (left) and Coby Williams battle against the Nyssa offensive line in the first half of a non-league game Friday night in Nyssa. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)
NYSSA – It was a simple running play, off the left side, but the moment Nyssa running back Jose Sanchez’s legs began to churn, he saw daylight.
Silhouetted against a falling sun turned blood red by smoke, Sanchez plunged ahead, cut back a step and then ran straight for the end zone and a 57-yard Nyssa touchdown.
The game against New Plymouth was barely three minutes old and the Bulldogs already held the momentum.
Sanchez put all the praise for his touchdown on his teammates.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘Wow, there are some great blocks by the line,’” said Sanchez.
Sanchez’s scoring sprint set the tone for a night where the Bulldogs stifled the bitter memory of a loss last week and racked up a 42-21 non-league win over visiting New Plymouth.
Bulldog Coach Lee Long said he was pleased overall with the performance of his team. He also said he wasn’t concerned about his squad bouncing back after a 7-6 loss to Baker a week ago.
“That loss didn’t hurt us. Not at all,” said Long.
Judging by the performance Friday night, Long was right.
While the Bulldogs offensive stalled at times, it still managed to right itself when necessary and clinch the win.
“The team played great. Everyone did their part,” said Sanchez.
The Bulldogs are primarily a run-oriented team and it was on the ground where Nyssa did the most damage.
The Bulldogs piled up 367 rushing yards and sealed the win with four touchdowns in the second half. Sanchez rushed for 124 yards on 13 carries and teammate Caleb Benson amassed 148 yards on the ground.
Still, Nyssa took to the air enough to keep the Pilgrim defense honest. Bulldog quarterback Ethan Draper passed for 133 yards.
“We opened our passing game a little bit and stretched the field,” said Long.
Draper’s favorite target – junior wide receiver Pedro Chavez – ended the game with three receptions for 65 yards.
Sanchez said Nyssa’s modest success in the air game can trace its roots to a simple fact.
“We have a quarterback that can throw and receivers that can catch,” said Sanchez.
The young Pilgrim squad showed stretches of brilliance and remained in the game into the second half.
After Nyssa built a 12-0 advantage early in the first half, New Plymouth cut the lead to 12-7 when quarterback Kobe Roberts hooked up with receiver Austin Wells on a 12-yard TD toss with 7:06 to go in the second quarter.
Austin Trujillo’s interception return pushed the Bulldogs ahead 19-7 at the 3:41 mark of the second stanza but the Pilgrims again narrowed the margin to 19-13 early in third quarter.
After that, it was all Nyssa thanks to Benson. Benson scored two touchdowns – an 80-yard scoring jaunt and a 64-yard run with 4:12 to go in the third stanza – to give Nyssa a 32-13 edge.
The Bulldogs tacked on a field goal early in the final frame and a 47-yard touchdown by Sanchez pushed the Bulldogs ahead 42-13.
“We scored every way possible, in every phase of the game,” said Long.
Long said the Bulldog offense did stall at times during the game. Nyssa didn’t score from late in the second quarter until the final minutes of the third but he wasn’t too concerned.
“Sometimes it takes some time,” he said.
Despite the offensive lapse, the Bulldogs don’t appear to be a team that is either over-confident or lacks faith in its abilities.
The Bulldogs, he said, expect victory.
“I expect us to control the tempo of the game,” said Long.
Friday night, that’s exactly what the Bulldogs did.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.