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When the Triad and Crane football teams lined up for the national anthem at Triad Saturday, you could tell the Timberwolves were outmatched.

Crane’s 27-man team far exceeded the Triad’s 16, and the Mustangs nearly had more upperclassman, 13, than players the Timberwolves could field.

That didn’t come as a complete surprise to Triad head coach Mike Homfeldt, and neither did the 46-14 final score. He knew what his team was facing going into this game.

“They have most of their team back from last year, and they were a really good team last year,” he said. “We knew we kinda had a big mountain to climb this week. We didn’t play our best game.”

Homfeldt expects his relatively young team to grow from today’s loss.

That’s why you play good teams, to challenge yourself, he said.

“You look at Crane’s roster, they’ve got a lot of seniors,” Homfeldt said. “They’ve played together for a long time. They’ve got 35 games under their belt. They’re playing against guys that played very little as freshmen or are just learning how to play varsity football.”

Over half of Triad’s roster is underclassmen with little experience, but a game like Saturday’s is maybe just what the inexperienced squad needs.

“I think it was a great learning experience for us,” Homfeldt said. “You have to play teams that are going to challenge you and, sometimes you end up on the short end of the stick when you do that. It was a good experience today.”

It may have been a good learning moment for some of Triad’s younger players, but it wasn’t pleasant.

The Mustangs held the Timberwolves scoreless for nearly three quarters, while besting their opponents six times in the end zone.

Things started to turn around late in the third.

After losing junior Tommy Morene, who went down in the third and was taken to the hospital shortly after halftime, and with no points on the board, senior running back Ethan Roe snagged an interception for a 60-yard rush to put Triad on the two-yard line with three minutes remaining in the quarter.

Junior quarterback Micah Young rushed the remaining two yards for the Timberwolves first touchdown. Roe ran the ball for a two-point conversion.

An interception and subsequent touchdown gave the Timberwolves and their fans some much-needed energy for the final quarter.

“I’m just glad that everybody got a little more joy from it because we were kind of being stagnant the whole time,” Roe said of his interception. “I’m glad that everybody started having some more fun.

“We got the crowd cheering. It’s always fun when you can make a big play that gets everyone excited.”

The Timberwolves shutout the Mustangs in the fourth.

Three minutes in, Isaac Orndoff caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Micah Young to shrink Crane’s win margin.

Roe’s interception and Orndoff’s catch were two shining spots in an otherwise tough loss, but Roe, one of Triad’s just two seniors, is hopeful his team can use Saturday’s defeat to get better.

“Now that we’ve gotten our butts handed to us,” he said. “We know what we’re going to need to focus on to improve so we can play at that higher level for the rest of the season.”

Triad opens Mountain Valley League play at 7 p.m. next Friday at rival Hosanna Christian.