Running back Brendan Brick ran for two touchdowns and quarterback Bryce Farrell tossed another Friday night, but it wasn't enough as the Summerville Bears came up short, losing to the Mariposa Grizzlies 25-20 at Thorsted Field.
Brick, a senior, ran for 94 yards on 21 carries and Farrell, a junior, threw for 177 yards on 10 of 23 passing, but it was three costly turnovers that doomed the Bears in their season opener.
"We just turned the ball over too many times," said Bears head coach Ben Watson. "Our offense executed at times. At times, the running game was there and every once in awhile, the passing game was there. Our receivers made a lot of mistakes on their routes and our quarterback made some decision mistakes."
Down 25-20 with a chance to score the go-ahead touchdown from the Mariposa 12, the Grizzlies dialed up a blitz and caused a turnover.
But it wasn't over for the Bears.
With a stingy defense, Summerville swarmed Grizzly ball carriers and forced a punt.
The Bears got one more shot with 2:44 to play but couldn't produce the game-winning drive.
"I thought the defense did a great job and gave the offense an opportunity there at the end," Watson said. "An opportunity to win. But it's kind of the first game jitters for us. We just all have to get on the same page."
The Grizzlies running backs Kamare Bailey, Phillip Rauch and Justin Sherrill milked the clock and sealed the team's first victory of the season.
"We had two shots in the last six minutes," Watson said. "That's pretty good. We just came up empty each time. When you have your opportunities late in the game and you don't take advantage of them, you're probably gonna get beat no matter whether you turned the ball over or not. Even with all the turnovers, we still had an opportunity to win the game late. That's all I can ask of the team."
The Grizzlies raced to a quick 12-0 lead in the first quarter with two touchdowns by Bailey: a 15-yard scamper and a 50-yard catch and run on a screen pass.
"He's a big-play guy," Watson said of Bailey. "He can turn a short gain into a big one. He's very difficult to deal with in space. He's fast and shifty. When you have that combination, it's pretty tough (to defend)."
Summerville answered instantly behind the running of Brick and passing of Farrell on its next drive. Receiver J.T. McCready set the Bears up with good field position when he returned the kickoff 35 yards to the Bears 40.
Brick started the drive with a 16-yard rush into Mariposa territory and Farrell connected with receiver Austin McCready in the slot for a 30-yard gain. Brick punched it in from nine yards out to cut the Grizzlies lead, 12-7, heading into the half.
Mariposa added cushion to its lead, 19-7, with a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter, scoring on an 11-yard touchdown pass.
But the Bears responded again, thanks to a 49-yard return on the ensuing kickoff by senior Andrew Brennan.
Five plays later, Farrell linked up with J.T. McCready deep down the right sideline for a 33-yard touchdown. Farrell added the extra point to cut Mariposa's lead to five, 19-14.
"Their quarterback surprised me," said Mariposa head coach Ryan Oliphant. "We weren't sure what we were going to see at quarterback, but he looked strong. I know he's young and he's just going to get better."
The Bears defense stepped up on the Grizzlies next possession. On 3rd-and-11 Bear defensive lineman Tyler Stoy intercepted a pass and rumbled 26 yards to the Mariposa 8.
Watson called Brick's number three straight times, and on his third carry, plowed in for his second touchdown of the night. Despite a failed two-point conversion, the Bears grabbed its first lead, 20-19.
But Mariposa was not to be denied. Just three plays after Brick's score, Bailey took a toss left and bolted 56 yards for his third touchdown of the game to take a 25-20 lead with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
"I was really pleased with the way that we stopped the run, and forced them out of what they wanted to do," Watson said. "Unfortunately, the big play hurt us. All in all, 90 percent of the time, our defense was pretty darn sound and kept us around."
Despite the loss, Farrell is optimistic about the Bears potential.
"We showed a lot of good signs," Farrell said. "We played very good defense for the most part. Our offense showed signs of life, but we made a lot of big mistakes. That was the downfall. I was actually quite pleased with the future of our football team. I wasn't happy with the performance for me or the team today, but I think the future is going to be good."