By Jason Epp
Leader & Times
Two standout special teams plays turned out to be the difference, as the Beaver Dusters came from behind to defeat the Turpin Cardinals 31-21.
Midway through the third quarter, Turpin had just seized momentum back with a 31-yard touchdown run by Matt Mendoza to take a 21-13 lead. Turpin had outgained Beaver in the third quarter at that point 115 yards to 4. But Beaver’s Ryan Nash quickly grabbed momentum back with a 90-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff. Jacob Hessman ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21.
“We emphasize special teams a lot, and we take a lot of pride in, and every once in a while you hit one,” said Beaver head coach Mike McVay. “It changed the momentum back into our hands.”
Beaver grabbed their first lead of the game on their next possession when David Rivera drilled a 41-yard field goal to give the Dusters a 24-21 lead.
Early in the game, the thought of Beaver winning by 10 or at all seemed far-fetched. Turpin’s Francisco Regelado intercepted a Luis Chavez pass at the Cardinals 35 on the Dusters’ first possession. Beaver then forced a Turpin punt that pinned Beaver deep in its own territory. But Turpin was called for an illegal man downfield penalty. Beaver hoping for better field position accepted the penalty and forced Turpin to re-kick.
That did not work out well for the Dusters, when Turpin’s Javier Alvarez came out of the pile after the punt was fumbled. Turpin took over at the Beaver 43. On third-and-thirteen Bradley Kinser hit Regalado for a 39-yard gain to the 4 that was moved to the two by a facemask penalty. Medoza pounded in on the next play to give Turpin a 6-0 lead.
Turpin quickly increased the lead to 14-0 when John Barnes blocked Beaver’s punt attempt on the next possession, picked it up and ran it in from 25 yards out.
With only two returning starters there was an opportunity for a young Dusters team to collapse, and for the game to turn into a Turpin rout. But the Dusters responded taking 6:07 off the clock, taking 15 plays to go 74 yards before quarterback Luis Chavez scored from six yards out.
“I’ve got to give that to the leadership of the few seniors I have that are back from last year,” said Coach McVay. “I saw it in their eyes, even when we were down 14 points, they believed. That’s what we preach.”
Two plays later it was Turpin’s turn to cough up the football. Rivera recovered the loose ball for Beaver at the Turpin 33. An off-sides penalty against Turpin on fourth-and-four kept the drive alive, and Chavez snuck in for the touchdown with 2:48 left in the half.
A false start penalty forced Beaver to kick the extra-point instead of attempting a 2-point conversion, to keep Turpin with the slimmest of leads at 14-13 at the half.
Turpin’s opening drive of the second half turned out to be a missed opportunity. After starting at their own 26, Bradley Kinser was able to break away down the sideline for 53 yards to the Beaver 20. Turpin then had a first-and-goal at the ten, and on fourth down from the six Kinser passed to Regalado who was tackled just inches from the goal line.
Coach McVay was understandably pleased with his team’s response to adversity.
“You never know until you’re in a battle like this how they are going to react,” said McVay. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. They went above and beyond and showed some character and poise, and I give all the credit to them. They prepared themselves to put them in spots to win games like these. Great way to start the season.”
Statistically it was a strange game. Beaver outgained Turpin 226 to 204, and had twice as many first downs (14-7). Beaver ran 59 plays to only 41 for Turpin, but Turpin averaged 6.1 yards per play compared to only 3.8 yards per play for Beaver.
But take out Turpin’s three big plays, and Beaver held them to only 81 yards on 38 plays for a 2.1 yard per play average.
Beaver is now 1-0 and will host Hollis next Friday at 7:30. Turpin, 0-1 will travel Booker, Texas.