SACRAMENTO - Despite a 49-42 road loss to the Bradshaw Christian Pride in Sacramento on Friday, Summerville Bears football coach Ben Watson saw improvement from the previous week.
The Bears offense doubled its point total, and then some, from 20 to 42. By halftime, Summerville had scored more points (21) than it did in four quarters against Mariposa in their season opener at Thorsted Field.
As a team, the Bears ran for 121 yards on 23 carries. That's up from the 65 yards Summerville gained a week prior. The Bears' 5.2 yards per pop was much improved from the 2.2 average a week ago.
Quarterback Bryce Farrell looked much more comfortable in the pocket against the Pride and passed for 152 yards and a touchdown. The chemistry with his receivers was better, and the offensive line played well, keeping Farrell off his back and not allowing a single sack.
Four different players scored a touchdown: Brenden Brick, Farrell, Humphrey Quirie and Nate Ulvevadet.
The Bears kept it clean and cut their turnover ratio 3 to 1.
"It was improved," Watson said. "There were some things that were improved. One of the things we focused on was not turning the ball over."
And the offense's execution in the red zone was exceptional, scoring on all five trips inside the Bradshaw 20 (four touchdowns and a field goal) for a perfect 100 percent conversion rate. In Week 1's 25-20 narrow loss, Summerville walked away twice with no points inside the Mariposa 20 on four attempts.
The Bears punted only once for a whopping 56 yards and converted 18 first downs, seven more than the previous game.
Defensively, the Bears secondary picked off their first pass when sophomore J.T. McCready intercepted a deflected ball that the offense turned into seven points just four plays later when slotback Humphrey Quirie scored on a 22-yard jet sweep and outran the Pride's defense to the pylon to give the Bears its only lead of the game, 35-28 with 5:44 to play in the 3rd quarter.
And Summerville's stout defensive front seven held the Pride's potent Double Wing rushing attack to under 200 yards rushing, well below their average. 24 of Bradshaw Christian's 45 carries gained four yards or less, and the Bears sacked quarterback Kevin Williams twice. Junior defensive lineman Ashtin Dalby recorded the team's first sack, lighting up Williams to end the second quarter and inside linebacker Nate Ulvevadet added another in the third quarter.
"I thought the defense played well even though the score was high," Watson said. "I thought at times we did a really good job stopping the run."
But with all the positives came some unfortunate timely mistakes.
With the game tied 35-35 to open the fourth quarter, the Bears had an opportunity to score the go-ahead touchdown after driving into Bradshaw Christian territory with a balanced selection of pass and run calls.
However, the Pride had other ideas.
On second-and-8, the Pride defense forced the Bear's lone turnover to swing the momentum in their favor. Before that turnover, Summerville had reached the end zone on back-to-back drives and was en route to grab control of the game.
But Bradshaw Christian capitalized on the fourth quarter turnover and nine plays later, delivered the back-breaking touchdown on a 17-yard strike from Williams to receiver Kyle Betts to retake the lead 42-35.
"We always know we're going to be in a battle," Pride head coach Drew Rickert said. "They're a good team. They're well coached. We know it was going to be a scrappy game. We know it was going to be a close game."
Summerville was forced to punt, its only one in the game, on the ensuing drive after a quick three and out.
"We need to take care of the ball," Watson said. "We need to get into third and shorter situations. And that way we can keep the ball on longer drives. We moved the ball, I wasn't displeased with that. We didn't have long drives, and we need to do that to limit the other team's number of offensive plays by the number of offensive plays that we're running. Control the game a little bit more."
Then, like last week, the big play hurt the Bears for a second straight game. Just two plays after forcing the punt, Williams connected with Betts on a short crossing pattern and raced into the end zone for a 65-yard catch and run. The game-winning touchdown pass put the Pride up 49-35 with 5:50 to play.
The Bears would answer on the very next drive with an impressive 12-play, 84-yard drive to close the gap at seven, 49-42, when Brick scored his third and final touchdown of the night with 2:41 remaining in the game.
But it was too late. The Pride held onto the win and grinded out the clock.
"If somebody didn't give it their all, they're kicking themselves for it," said Bears co-captain Daniel Kristofic. "They gave it as much as they felt they could. None of us are quitters."