by Scott Boyle
The first game of the 2014 football season is in the books after the San Juan Broncos defeated the Monticello Buckaroos, 44-7, on August 22 in Monticello.
San Juan used a relentless passing attack to soften up the young Buckaroo defense and then the running game to pound the ball into the endzone.
The game plan worked for coach Monty Lee’s team as the Broncos led 18-6 at halftime, thanks to good field position.
Junior quarterback Payton Palmer completed 11 for 25 for 159 yards and two TDs in the first half alone.
Monticello scored their lone touchdown in the second quarter on a nice five-yard toss from senior QB Makade Maloy to Alma Beh.
But the third quarter was the router quarter for the Broncos as they turned an interception and two short Buckaroo punts into quick scores on three consecutive offensive plays to put the game out of reach.
Bronco junior Bronz Eldredge intercepted Maloy on the Buckaroo’s first play of the half after the Buckaroo defense forced a punt on San Juan’s first possession. Eldredge returned the intereception to the Monticello 11-yard line.
Two plays later, the Broncos scored on a Payton Palmer 10-yard pass to senior running back Grant Laws. On the next possession, the Bronco defense pushed the Buck offense back to their own 10 yard line, forcing a short punt. They scored the next play on a 35-yard TD pass, Palmer to Eldredge.
After another short Buckaroo punt, Kavika Su’e Su’e dashed 38 yards to paydirt on the next play and suddenly it was 38-7 just six minutes in to the third quarter.
San Juan ended the game with 219 passing yards on 17 of 36 attempts, 106 rushing yards, 15 first downs, one turnover, and 11 penalties for 100 yards.
MHS was eight for 21 for 103 yards passing, -17 yards rushing, six first downs, four turnovers, and eight penalties for 65 yards.
The Broncos beat the Bucks for the tenth time in a row and 16th time in the last 20 games. The Bucks last beat the Broncos in the 2003 season, 32-20, after also winning in 2001 (28-23) and 2002 (19-12).
New Buckaroo head coach Art Adair talked with Sportshorts after the game.
Q: What positive things do you take from this game?
“As far as the overall game goes, the second half wasn’t that great. But our overall performance, from where we are at right now as a team, I think those boys did a heck of a job.
“I know most people only look at the score at the end of the game and think 44-7 and say, ‘Hey, you were not successful because they put up 44 on you.’ But I think overall we are ok.
“San Juan is a great program that has been successful at what they do for a long time. You got to give them credit, they play hard and are coached well.
“I watched some film after the game and you know, we had some mental breakdowns in the second half. We got a little tired and that’s gonna come with a young team, a team that’s not that experienced.
“But overall, I thought our first half was a great half of football. We put some points on the board and overall never quit working.”
Q: Losses expose weaknesses as well. What do you plan to focus on this week?
“First we got to get off the ball. Got to be quicker at our line. We have to hit holes quicker and move the defense. We have to make sure we got the right personnel on the field.
“Sometimes we only had ten guys. That’s unacceptable and that falls on us as coaches to make sure our guys are out there.
“I think our biggest weaknesses is our inexperience. We don’t have a lot of veteran players on our team. We’ve got a lot of inexperience with each other, we’re still trying to feel each other out.
“Whether it’s from the quarterback to wide receivers, or lineman to running backs, we still have to figure a lot of things out.
“We played two freshman, five sophomores, and six juniors, all with no varsity experience and some seniors with little to none as well. We had a few players that didn’t play last year at all and have one junior that has never played football. He did a tremendous job.”
Q: How did you feel your coaching staff functioned during the game?
“I think we learned a lot that first game, going back and looking at things. We know we’re responsible to get personnel on the field and make sure those kids are out there.
“I think better clock management at times as well on my part. It’s a learning thing for us as well.”
Q: Player(s) of the game and why?
“I think every kid that stepped on the field deserves player of the game. We never quit, even when we knew it was out of reach. We stayed positive, played every down and finished with head high.
“Some of the guys that stood out are Nolan Freestone and Parker Knudsen. They both looked good on both sides of the ball. I loved the hustle and that they never quit.
“Tobin Esplin worked his butt off as well, playing both ways.
“And then Cole Eldredge and Makade Maloy. We will need the senior leadership as we move forward. I thought they kept everything in perspective no matter the score. And they worked their tails off from start to finish.”
Next up for the Bucks is region rival Whitehorse in Monticello on August 29, followed by three away games at Richfield, Kanab, and Monument Valley.
Both Monticello and San Juan boys and girls teams participated in the annual Southern Utah University Invitiational. Buckaroo coach Jeff Hunt reports, “The MHS boys finished eighth, led by Tyler Bird”s tenth place finish.
“The MHS Girls didn’t have a complete varsity team and were fifth in JV. Bailey Goodwine led the girls with a sixth place finish.”
San Juan boys and girls both finished ninth.