NYSSA — It was a tough Friday night for the Nyssa football team, as Baker came to town and trounced the Bulldogs 38-0.
But while the Bulldogs scored a grand total of zero points on Friday night, one thing that wasn’t zero after the game was Nyssa coach Lee Long’s confidence in his team.
“We’ll be good this year,” Long said. “You mark my words.”
As part of the Bulldogs’ scheduling, Long said it’s important to have to play a very tough opponent early in the year.
“The reality of it is, we knew Baker was going to be good,” Long said. “They will do well this year. We just got a little shell-shocked in the first quarter. Everyone will wake up on Saturday and Sunday and watch an NCAA team or an NFL team get worked in their first game of the year, too.”
Long said it’s going to be a long time until Nyssa sees an opponent as strong as Baker was on Friday night, and that will likely be on Oct. 11 at Vale.
On Sept. 13, Nyssa will be playing at New Plymouth, who will allow the Bulldogs to develop more after the tough test against Baker.
Long said the key for Nyssa this week will be to solidify the running game, as that will get the offense in motion.
“We need to solidify the running game,” Long said. “It all starts up front and that opens up the perimeter. It’s all center out. But we’ll be significantly better then.”
Last season, Nyssa opened their schedule with a 7-6 loss to Baker before finding their footing against New Plymouth. They went on to win seven of the following eight games.
Offensively, the Bulldogs were unable to get any rhythm going against Baker. The Bulldogs’ first five offensive drives ended with a three-and-out punt. The Bulldogs weren’t able to convert a third down until there was just two minutes and 17 seconds left in the first half. Nyssa also lost two fumbles.
Quarterback Landon McDowall completed five of 11 passes for 22 yards and one interception. He also carried the ball 12 times for 19 yards.
Caleb Benson had 14 carries for 37 yards.
The highlight of the night for Nyssa was the defensive adjustments, as the Bulldogs played much tougher defense in the second half. After trailing 25-0 at halftime, Baker’s only scoring in the second half came off a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a one-yard dive with less than a minute left in the game.
Nyssa kept Baker from scoring for the entire third quarter.
Long said he was happy with the way the defense responded to the Baker power rushing attack that torched them in the first half.
One player that Long saw a lot of great things from on Friday was defensive back Raul Ruiz. Ruiz, who stands at five feet, four inches tall, was tasked with covering Baker’s six-foot-two Riley Flanagan for most of the game.
While Flanagan was able to pull in one 32-yard touchdown in the second quarter, Long said Ruiz played tough in coverage despite being undersized.
“In the beginning of the game, Raul struggled a little bit. But he really stepped up and righted the ship,” Long said.
Long also praised the play of Santiago Miranda, a sophomore tasked with playing linebacker for the Bulldogs.
“He’s undersized but played really tough,” Long said.