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Defense gets it done for Sutter
Huskies win opener despite anemic offense
With 30 seconds to play, Sutter High linebacker Justin Taylor scooped up a fumble, surrounded himself with blockers and motored 51 yards into the end zone.
It had no impact on the outcome, but it was a fitting ending — a present for a defensive squad that looked absolutely impenetrable Friday in a 20-3 season-opening win at Live Oak.
"I couldn't be more proud of those guys," said new Sutter coach Ryan Reynolds. "There's no question our D kept us in that football game; they were dialed in."
Yes, they were. Live Oak's longest gain of the night — a 15-yard penalty on the Huskies.
The absolutely suffocating combination of size and speed gave Sutter a visible advantage over the Lions, who managed to stay in contention thanks to a surprising lack of offense from the Huskies.
There was no sleekness, smoothness or gaudy stat sheet full of Huskies with ludicrously high yardage totals. A Mid-Valley staple for years, the Huskies vaunted wing-T based attack looked somewhat pedestrian against a stout Live Oak defense.
A year ago, the Huskies pummeled the Lions by 61 points. This time around, it was 6-3 entering the fourth quarter.
"You're going to see more on offense, and to be honest, we didn't really open up the playbook tonight," Reynolds said.
Though the coach hinted that he kept some of his cards hidden, the lack of Sutter points is also a testament to a new-and-improved Live Oak squad. Though the Lions' defense is visibly smaller than the Huskies, it can still make devastating hits and some highly clutch plays.
Live Oak (1-1) intercepted Sutter quarterback Grant Campbell twice and forced five fumbles, two of which the Lions recovered. In all, the turnovers completely changed the complexion of the game and made the final score much lower than it could have been.
In the third quarter, junior Cameron Brown was en route for a touchdown until he coughed up the ball to Live Oak on the 4-yard line. Then in the fourth quarter, Campbell threw the second of his picks — which was off the chest of a Husky receiver — in the red zone.
"Offense, we have to get better," Reynolds told his players at midfield after the game. "The fumbles tonight, I've never seen that from a Sutter team."
But even a slow night offensively couldn't temper Reynolds' excitement over the play of his defense. Even when the offense turned over the ball, or the Lions inherited solid field position, the ever-imposing Husky defensive line was there to absolutely stuff everything the Lions had.
Paul Kang, who tallied 179 yards against Colusa, led the Lions with 13 yards rushing. Tony Montes finished with 11.
"We couldn't find a hole, they were solid," Live Oak coach Dan Johnson said. "I tried everything, I tried everybody and anybody, and we couldn't put more than a couple things together (on offense).
Live Oak's field goal came with 4:06 to play in the first quarter. After recovering a fumble at its own 48, the Lions used every bit of grit they had — and a Sutter personal foul penalty — to eventually get the opportunity to punch a 36-yarder through the uprights.
Sutter scored its first touchdown off a 3-yard run from fullback Ryan Cargill with 1:11 to go in the first half. Though no Husky reached triple digits rushing, Cargill's 78 hard-earned, up-the-gut yards were effective enough to keep the chains moving. Justin Gildemeister added 71 yards off option plays and Campbell rushed for 59 yards on draw plays, including a 6-yard run to paydirt in the fourth. In the air, he completed 8 of 18 passes for 100 yards.
Though the final score was lower than many expected, Reynolds left the Lions' field happy about his defense, and glad his first game as a varsity head coach — he replaced local legend Scott Turner — is over.
"I'm glad it's behind us," he said. "I was nervous all day. I must have received 300 phone calls."
The Sutter junior varsity team won 22-8. Elijah Smith tallied a pair of touchdowns and Anthony Cervantez added a 3-yard TD for the Huskies.