Just over a minute into the second quarter, the Bonanza Antlers appeared to be in control.
The game had the makings of a Bonanza rout. The slick running of senior running back Tanner Mestas had given Bonanza a 22-6 lead, and some ugly early turnovers on the part of the Myrtle Point Bobcats (1-1) made it seem like the Antlers (1-1) might cruise to the finish.
A relentless response from the Bobcats however kept the Antlers off the board for the rest of the game. Myrtle Point went on to double the Bonanza score, defeating the Antlers 44-22 in some eight-man football action at Bonanza High School on Friday.
“It’s a gut check,” said Donny Cloud, Bonanza’s head coach. “We got to be ready to play and we got to keep our focus.”
Mestas, the Antlers’ bellcow punched in three touchdowns, the latest of which came just over a minute into the second quarter. From there, it was all Bobcats.
“We had a breakdown on our defensive end, gave up a couple big plays there, some missing assignments,” Cloud said. “All things we’re going to work on next week.”
The Myrtle Point offense however only needed three plays to score 20 unanswered points and take the lead into halftime. After Mestas’ touchdown, the Bobcats answered immediately with an 80-yard catch-and-run from wide receiver Andreas Villanueva on the first play from scrimmage on the successive drive. Villanueva caught quarterback Logan Backman’s catch in space and turned on the jets, outrunning every Antler defender on his way to the end zone.
A three-and-out plus a punt from the Antlers gave the Bobcats the ball at midfield and again Myrtle Point immediately scored on a pass from Backman.
This time, tight end Howard Blanton ran his catch to the house. A failed two-point conversion left Bonanza with a 22-20 lead with a handful of minutes before halftime.
Mistakes hampered the next Antler drive. A false start forced a third-and-very-long. A Mestas run up the gut left the Bonanza punter some breathing room, but a dropped low snap forced him to keep it. He was tackled in the red zone, giving the Bobcats great field position.
Again, Myrtle Point immediately cashed in. Running back Troy Warner took the snap in for a score handing the Bobcats a 26-22 lead at the half.
The Bobcats received the second half kickoff and Warner returned it for a quick touchdown. Successive touchdowns left the Antlers trying to climb back in the game through the air.
Bonanza quarterback Andres Mojica rarely had much time in the pocket and was often hurried and sacked. Mojica was only 4 for 13 passing and racked up 33 air yards and threw one interception late in the game. He also rushed for 38 yards.
A switch to Mestas taking the snap in a Wildcat formation was initially successful but was curtailed after Mestas took a nasty hit. The formation did yield the Antlers’ longest play of the day — a 25-yarder full of broken tackles from Mestas. In addition to his three touchdowns, Mestas also rushed for 157 yards.
The goal was to see if they could get Mestas around the outside with blockers in front of him, said the Antlers’ offensive coordinator Corey Hedger.
“We got to keep our heads high because we got another tough team coming from this conference next week,” Cloud said.
Next week, Bonanza faces Gold Beach at home. Last week, the Antlers delivered a strong 38-12 victory over Tulelake.