Homecoming game. The opening night of SWW 1A Trico Division play. A chance to make a statement that would make the rest of the league take notice.
Friday's league opener between Columbia High and Castle Rock had all the trappings for a Bruins victory save one: An opponent willing to play along.
The visiting Rockets (1-0, 4-1) proved to be anything but pushovers in manhandling the Bruins and handing them a humbling 38-7 defeat in Bruin Stadium.
"We were embarrassed," said Bruins Coach Matt Whitmire. "We gave the ball away three times inside our 20-yard line in the first quarter, and they took advantage by scoring three touchdowns in just 11 plays."
The first quarter ended with Castle Rock on top, 18-7, but only because CHS's Enrique Granados recovered the Rockets' muff of a punt and returned in 46 yards for his first touchdown of the season.
"Enrique was in the right place at the right time," Whitmire said. "Other than that, there was nothing that we did for ourselves that would've helped us make a better game of it."
Columbia ran just 39 plays from scrimmage and only mustered five first downs and 74 yards of total offense--all on the ground--against a Castle Rock defense that had yielded 14 total points in the Rockets' previous two games.
"Castle Rock had the right scheme for defending against our Double Wing T offense," Whitmire said. "Those kids were coached up really well in the three Rs--read, react and run--and shut us down in a way we haven't been used to."
Castle Rock's offense, for its part, enjoyed outstanding field position throughout the first half and sent the Rockets to their locker room at halftime with a 31-7 advantage.
Tailback Chris Tinney did most of the damage for the Rockets, scoring on runs of 7, 20 and 70 yards in Castle Rock's big first half of production. He finished with 101 yards in four carries.
For Columbia (0-1, 3-2), halfback Jenson Ladiges paced the offense with 74 rushing yards in 19 attempts. Carlos Mendoza led the CHS defense with nine solo tackles and five assists.
Columbia travels to La Center tomorrow night for a Trico Division game that Whitmire said will make or break the Bruins' 2008 season.
"The kids are fully aware our season--the prospect of playing in a state seeding game in November--comes down to Friday night," he said. "They've known that for a while, so we expect our kids to rise up to the challenge."
Columbia will benefit from the return of six starters--three on each side of scrimmage--who had missed time because of injury. In addition, CHS took part in a three-hour clinic last weekend on how to defend against La Center's Wing T offense.
"Getting these kids back will make a big difference," Whitmire said, adding, "What Castle Rock did to us is what we hope to do to La Center."
La Center (2-3) will be looking to go 2-0 in Trico standings after dismantling Stevenson, 35-0, last weekend. The Wildcats will be led by running back Chris Concannon, who ran for 245 yards and four touchdowns against the Bulldogs.
"They're a dangerous team, but we have a sound defensive scheme to counter what they do. Our kids will just have to execute it," Whitmire said.
As much as anything, though, the Bruins' offense will need to get off to a good start to take pressure off the defense.
"Now that we get to play people in the positions we envisioned for them back on the first day of fall practice, we expect to get back to what we do best and that's run the football," Whitmire said.