SHERIDAN — Late defensive scores to seal the win seemed fitting Friday night.
Sheridan came out on top of a grinding battle with Kelly Walsh (0-2) in their home opener, using two late turnovers to seal a 26-10 win as they moved to 2-0 on the year.
Opening night at Scott Field didn’t phase the Trojans who, as usual, ran in for a brawl Friday.
It was the Broncs Ethan Hoopes ball-hawking antics that put the game away. The linebacker snatched up a muffed punt at the opponent’s two-yard line, and then added a pick six to cap scoring — making both plays in the fourth quarter, riling up the packed house out for a perfect night of late-summer football.
“The game was a fight,” Hoopes said. “It was tough for a while, we were battling but we came through as a team.”
“We practiced getting the ball out, getting turnovers all through two-a-days, we just want to keep getting better and keep working hard,” he added. “We’ll keep getting better the harder we push ourselves.”
For Broncs head coach Don Julian, that’s been the focus so far this fall: continued improvement. Friday night’s battle was a marked step in the right direction, even while it came with some of those growing pains.
“We struggled to get off the field a little bit, but our drives were long, I think the first quarter there was two drives basically,” Julian said. “We had one and they had one. We’ve got some things we’ve got to keep working on.”
Turnovers and the struggles of his PAT squad were the head coach’s biggest points of emphasis. Sheridan had a fumble and an interception that, luckily for them, weren’t capitalized on by the Trojans. Their second score, a pass from Kameron Eckard to Nick Gill, was dampened by a blocked PAT.
“We just can’t leave those points out there,” Julian said.
However, when it was all said and done, Sheridan’s defense was the star, and the points weren’t needed. Neither team eclipsed 100 yards through the air. Sheridan ran for 115 yards and Kelly Walsh hit 155, and it was clear that defense was theme of the night.
“I thought it was good that we got in a battle and we finished,” Julian said. “We made some plays when we needed to make some plays to break the game open at the end.”
While the Broncs entered 2013 with a work-in-progress depth, Friday’s performance was one of resolve from everyone on the field.
The Broncs were opportunistic in the secondary when Sheridan pass rushers harassed Trojan quarterback Marcus Nolan. Hoopes got his as did sophomores Evan Coon and Riley Sessions. Riley Sessions’ late pick stopped the Trojans last drive and allowed Sheridan to run out the clock.
“The young kids have been excellent this year,” Hoopes said. “They’ve helped us a lot. We’ve got two young guys behind us, and they’re doing everything we ask and everything at 100 miles an hour, and that’s all we can ask from them.”
Dan Sessions led the way for Sheridan in the backfield, finishing with 66 yards on the ground.
Offensively, while Sheridan had the ball in a limited capacity, two key plays by Kameron Eckard turned out to be vital. He hit Tyler Kaufmann from three yards out for the Broncs first score of the night, and after Kelly Walsh answered with a long drive and a goal line score from runner Austin Sullins, Eckard would later in the half find Gill on a short route for six more. Sheridan led 13-7 at the half.
The Broncs ran just 16 plays in the second half, hurt by a fumble that gave Kelly Walsh life with the score 13-10 before the muffed punt. Colbey Bruney would punch it in from two yards out to make the score 19-10. Hoopes returned the tipped pass interception a few minutes later.
“We expected Kelly Walsh to be solid, and I think they are a solid team, but there are definitely some very solid teams in the state,” Julian said. “The bar is set high for us. We’ve just got to keep improving.”
“They have a knack of coming up here and playing us tough,” he added. They tried an onside kick early in the game but the ball bounced unluckily for Sheridan, and Kelly Walsh got a short field. “Maybe if we get that and keep that momentum going, maybe the game isn’t quite as close. But all in all, it’s a victory and every Friday night that we get a victory is a special night.”
Sheridan makes one of the longest trips in the state to Evanston next Friday night, looking to stay unbeaten.
Passing Kameron Eckard 11-14-2TD-1INT 94 yards;
Rushing: Dan Sessions 11-66; Colbey Bruney 10-36; Nick Gill 2,-9; Kameron Eckard 6-6; Ethan Hall 3-18;
Receiving: Joe Shassetz 2-38; Tyler Kaufmann 1-3-1TD; Trae Kaufmann 4-35; Nick Gill 2-14-1TD; Dan Sessions 2-15
Passing: Marcus Nolan 14-24-95yds-4INT
Austin Sullins 19-71; Kooper Adams 5-15; Marcus Nolan 15-62; Tanner Galey 1-7
Receiving: Dan Gochenour 6-41; Tanner Galey 2-21; Kooper Adams 5-31; Turner Hiatt 1-2
Team Totals Kelly Walsh/Sheridan
First downs: 13-16
Yards per carry 3.4/3.9
Passing yards: 94-95
Total plays 48-65
Total offense 209-250
Return yards: 109/44
Total turnovers: 2/5