HANFORD — Shut out through the first three quarters, it was a bad day on offense for the Golden Bears. The defense fared a bit better, but there was one common word used to describe Thursday’s game at the Neighbor Bowl.
“Mistakes,” Sierra Pacific coach Dion Tate said. “We have to make the right adjustments on the field. We had kids thinking too much. We had a lot of things open.”
The Golden Bears (0-2) lost 21-7 in a lackluster game against Riverdale (2-1). It’s Sierra Pacific’s first time starting a season 0-2 since 2013 when they went 1-9 and 0-5 in the East Sequoia League.
“It’s just simple mistakes, missed blocks, people don’t know the plays all the way,” Sierra Pacific running back Matthew Alfaro said. “We could’ve done better than 21-7. It’s just simple mistakes that makes things like that happen. We've just got to put in the work."
But the season is far from over and it was something Tate preached heavily to his team in their postgame huddle.
“We have to stay calm,” Tate said. “There were times we blocked field goals and rather than falling on the ball, guys were celebrating. We get fumbles guys are celebrating rather than jumping on the ball.”
Alfaro dove into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:27 left in the game. It provided a lift on the morality side of things after coming into the red zone multiple times on Thursday and walking away with nothing to show for it.
“I couldn’t have done any of that without the linemen,” Alfaro, who finished with 63 rushing yards, said. “The linemen were outstanding today, they were on fire. The amount of yards I had today and the good carries that I had, I have to owe it all to them”
A failed onside kick put Riverdale in good position, but a fumble was recovered by the Golden Bears and gave them a chance with under five minutes to go. Two plays later, a 39-yard catch by receiver Adam Antuna, his only of the night, brought the ball to Riverdale’s 31-yard line.
But on the very next play, backup quarterback Gavin Gamble, starting in place for injured signal caller Chad Leslie, threw an interception to end any hopes of a comeback.
Gamble had a decent day completing 10 of 14 passes for 152 yards, but had three interceptions with two of them coming in the fourth quarter. He also picked up 44 yards on the ground.
Senior Jayson Littlejohn led all receivers with three catches for 49 yards.
“We were still getting used to Gamble,” Littlejohn said. “He wasn’t in his environment … but he tried his best. We did what we could, we've just got to get better.”
For Tate, the defense was a positive on Thursday and he said he was “extremely satisfied” with the way they played.
“We have to reward our defense on offense, which means when they get a turnover, we can’t turn the ball back over,” Tate said. “At the end of the game, being down, we still had an opportunity to come back and win.”
The defense blocked a field goal before halftime and forced five fumbles, but the offense was unable to capitalize or gave it right back each time. Anthony Bursiaga had a team-high 10 tackles and Rashad Wilson and Connor Chennault each had one sack.
“Defensively, we were good, but we made mental mistakes,” Littlejohn said. “We would have a couple good plays and then make a mental mistake. We were inconsistent. We've got to stay consistent next time.”
It was a slow first half before Riverdale quarterback Mason Musgrave took a keeper on second-and-goal for a 1-yard touchdown with 3:02 left in the first quarter. The half was comprised of an interception, turnover on downs and fumble by the Golden Bears.
The fumble came during the first quarter on a first-and-goal from the Cowboys’ 2-yard line. The snap was mishandled and the Cowboys jumped on it, swiping away a chance for the Golden Bears to score first.
With a 7-0 lead at halftime, the Cowboys took their opening drive of the second half and marched 46 yards down the field ending on a 4-yard touchdown by running back Jonathan Solorio.
The Cowboys added its final score on an 8-yard run by Musgrave after a fake field goal.
The Golden Bears will face the Huskies (0-2) next Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the third annual Clash of the Claws.
“We've got to learn from our mistakes,” Littlejohn said. “We made a lot of mistakes. We can’t make those mistakes anymore.”