There are always question marks heading into season openers. Spanish Springs’ lack of size up front, however, was a certainty heading into Friday’s 2015 debut at home against Damonte Ranch.
And it showed in what turned into a 42-7 Damonte Ranch non-league rout in front of a massive crowd, the largest Spanish Springs Athletic Director Art Anderson said he’s ever seen at the school.
Six times the Cougs marched into Mustangs territory Friday night, five times they weren’t able to get a push in short-yardage situations and turned the ball over on downs.
“You have to find ways to take advantage of what you have against your opponent,” Second-year Spanish Springs coach Eric Borja said. “It’s something we’re going to have to address as a staff to make sure we can find ways to score in the red zone.”
Damonte’s biggest fourth-down stop came early, on Spanish Springs’ first possession of the night. After the Mustangs marched 79 yards on 10 plays, capped with a 2-yard Cameron Sandoval plunge, the Damonte defense stuffed the Cougs four times inside the 5.
On the very next play, the Mustangs’ Sam Banghart went 89 yards down the sideline to give the guests a 14-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish—less than four minutes into the contest.
“They (defense) played really well on fourth down,” Damonte Ranch coach Shawn Dupris said. “Again, we’re happy with that. We just have to clean up first and second down and not let the little things happen. But I couldn’t be happier with them stopping them on fourth down.”
Banghart and Sandoval ran all over a tired Spanish Springs defense in the second half and turned a respectable 21-7 margin at the break into a romp. Banghart amassed 179 yards and scored two touchdowns on just 13 carries. Sandoval chewed up 113 yards and found paydirt three times on just nine touches.
Although he was a problem all night running the ball, Banghart really broke Spanish Springs’ will on special teams.
The two teams played most of the third quarter to a scoreless draw until Jake Ward sent a booming punt to Banghart who corralled the bomb and went 60 yards untouched to put the Mustangs up 28-7 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter.
Sandoval broke a 71-yard touchdown run and Banghart scored from 43 yards in the fourth quarter to put any insane thoughts of a comeback to rest.
“It kind of seemed like in the second half, the big plays started to hit,” Borja said. “The punt return for a touchdown, the two big long runs … it deflates your team. It’s hard to bounce back from those types of plays.”
With the exception of the fourth quarter, Spanish Springs’ defense was strong against a prominent Damonte Ranch offense with little help from its own offense.
After Sandoval scored his second touchdown of the day that put the Mustangs up 21-7 with 1:02 to play in the first half, a long kickoff return, a personal foul and a long pass from Ian Check (19-of-36 for 181 yards) to Austin Cadenhead set the Cougs up at the 1 with 33 seconds left.
Cadenhead caught six balls for 119 yards.
Running back Travis Vargas (nine carries for 51 yards and a touchdown) scored on the next play but it was called back because the Purple had 12 men on the field. The touchdown would’ve cut the deficit to 21-14 going into the locker room. Instead, as they did most of the night, the Cougars were unable to convert on fourth down and again, turned the ball over to the Mustangs deep in their own territory.
Spanish Springs got the ball to start the second half and marched to the Damonte 14 before history repeated itself. Spanish Springs finished the game 1-for-7 on fourth down.
Damonte’s offense needed just 47 plays to rack up 412 yards—most of which came on big plays—while Spanish Springs’ offense covered just 273 yards on 70 snaps.
“Our message is … it’s kind of like NFL preseason for us,” Borja said. “We’re trying to find the guys that will play the positions we have in our schemes and learn from these types of games (non-league), what we need to do at practice, what we need to work on.”
The Cougs will attempt to bounce back from the shellacking next Friday when they travel to Bishop Manogue for another non-league meeting.