NASELLE - Their opponents didn't need any help, but the Naselle Comets were their own worst enemy in the opening minutes of their homecoming and final football game of the season. The Pacific League game, played Thursday, Nov. 4, saw the Comets lose to the South Bend Indians 41-24.
Three miscues led directly to SB scores as the Indians built up an insurmountable 20-8 first quarter lead and a 34-8 half-time lead. The first possession ended in a fumble recovery by SB and an Indians touchdown. The next Comet possession ended in a punt and an eventual Indians score; and the third Naselle possession was fumbled away on their third play, after an illegal motion penalty had wiped out Naselle's initial first down of the game.
The Naselle mistakes played right to the Indians strength as their gnat-quick freshman quarterback Randy Eang and sophomore running back Brian Yi took advantage of the short field provided by the bobbles.
Two plays were all it took for the Indians to reach the end zone after the Indians had recovered a fumble on Naselle's 30. A 15-yard quarterback keeper by Eang produced the score. Sean Martinsen kicked the extra point and SB led 7-0 with 9:38 still to play in the first period.
Senior Tony Mendoza returned the kickoff to the Naselle 24. Three plays produced only one yard for the Comets, and freshmen Jason Gradt punted to the Naselle 45 where the Indians fumbled, but recovered the ball. It took the Indians seven plays to travel the 46 yards with sophomore running back Mike Einman going the final three yards. Martinsen missed the point after kick, and the Indians led 13-0 with 5:04 left in the quarter.
On their next possession, the Indians' Josh Lorton, a senior, picked up seven yards on the Indians first play. On the second play, Eang connected with senior Kyle Rogers for a 22-yard score. Martinsen booted the PAT and South Bend's lead grew to 20-0 with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
A few seconds later, the Comets fans got their first chance to cheer. Junior Aoy Marion took the kickoff at his own 15-yard line, emerged out of a swarm of would-be-tacklers near the left sideline, cut to the middle of the field, and outran the Indians closest pursuers for an 85-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Doug Wise passed to Richard Smith for the two-point conversion, and Naselle was on the scoreboard at 20-8.
On the third play of the second period, Eang and Rogers completed almost a carbon copy of their earlier score, and the Indians lead stretched to 27-8 after only 1:11 had run off the clock in the period.
The Comets finally got off one of their best drives of the first half going, moving the ball to midfield before faltering. A pass from Wise to Smith and a Wise to Mendoza pass had each picked up first downs in the process. But two plays with minus yardage and an incomplete pass forced Naselle to punt again.
This time, tough defensive work, keyed by Smith, Maxwell, and freshman Bobby Footh, corralled the Indians and the Comets got good field position when they returned the Indians punt to the Naselle 40-yard line. However that position went for naught, even after an Indians' 15-yard personal foul penalty gave the Comets a first down at the SB 39. Senior Jon Allison intercepted a Wise pass, and he returned it 70 yards, without a hand being laid on him.
A scuffle far behind the play resulted in offsetting double unsportsman-like conduct penalties, with no players ejected. Martinsen kicked the PAT, but was hit late by a Naselle tackler which produced a 15-yard penalty on the kickoff.
When time ran out on the half without any further damage, the Indians were leading 34-8.
Things started out on a high note for the Comets as the Indians fumbled the second half kickoff, but the Comets couldn't move the ball and were forced to punt. When Gradt couldn't get the punt away, the Indians took over on their own 44.
Long-time Indians coach Tom Sanchez, who has a 37-player roster including eight seniors, substituted freely for much of the second half. The classy move by Sanchez enabled the Comets to score and make the game more competitive.
The Comets' Footh recovered an Indians fumble, but NHS couldn't move the ball and punted the pigskin back to the Indians. The Indians, after moving the ball out to near midfield, fumble for the third time in the second half, with Naselle's Footh recovering.
The third break in a row seemed to ignite the Comets offense. Starting at the SB 40, the Comets used Mendoza's seven straight running plays and one reception of a 17-yard Wise pass, to move the ball to the Indians 6-yard line. A half the distance to the goal penalty set up Mendoza for a 3-yard scoring plunge. Mendoza also ran for the two points conversion. The 40 yards in eight plays drive brought the score to 34-16 with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Indians fumbling problems still weren't over. They again put the ball on the ground, and Naselle's Jason Gradt recovered at the Indians 36 as the third quarter was drawing to a close. The Comet began to take advantage of the short field as Marion, with Mendoza's help, picked up two first downs in moving the ball inside the ten yard line. The Comets then got another break when a SB offside penalty wiped out a lost Nasal fumble, and gave the Comets the ball just inside the five yard line. Marion punched it for the final five yards. A 5-yard penalty on the extra point try didn't stop the Comets as a reverse to receiver Carl Fredrickson produced the two point conversion. The Comets 40-yard drive in nine plays brought the score to 34-24 with 8:30 to play.
The Indians, with their starting unit finally back in the game, started their next drive from their own 30 yard line. With Yi and Eang giving Naselle's defense all kinds of problems, it took strong defensive work by Comets like Marion, Smith, Footh, and sophomore Brad Erickson to slow the Indians express. Yi, on the seventh play of the drive, scored from 11 yards out. Martinsen's kick was true and the Indians took control at 41-24 with 5:12 left to play.
The Comets came close to scoring two more times. Time did, however, run out on the Comets as Smith gained 6 yards as the horn ended the season with a 41-24 Naselle loss.
Naselle's season ended with a 0-5 Pacific League record, 1-7 overall, plus a JV win. The NHS football careers of seniors Richard Smith, Tony Mendoza, Carl Fredrickson, David Gradt, and Gavin Maxwell also came to an end. Andrea praised the play of the seniors, in particular. He also stated that key defenders were Aoy Marion, Bobby Footh, Jason Gradt, and Gavin Maxwell and the key blockers as Randy Johnson, Brad Erickson, Gavin Maxwell, and Matt Blain.