Monday, September 17, 2012

"The Turnaround": Another Close Call

by Jason Strunk
Lubbock High School Head Coach

Lubbock Cooper Pirates vs. Lubbock High

Location - Lubbock, TexasStadium - Lowrey Field at Plains Capital Park
Time - 8:00 p.m.
Captains - Joel Rivera, Raleigh Anderson, Keefe Gallagher, Dom Adame
Coin Toss - We want the ball (Cooper won toss and deferred).

Westerner Key's to victory:
1. Finish drives
2. Ball security/protect the ball
3. Red Zone efficiency (just score!)


Coach Strunk's Cooper Note

LHS had lost 24 straght games heading into this contest... Cooper is a state-ranked opponent that is located just outside Lubbock city limits... Weather was cool...perfect football weather...crowd approximately 8,000... 

Game Notes:

There is no point in going blow-by-blow on this game. This game was lost on two crucial drives.

With the Westerners up 21-19 in the first half, we had the ball with about 6 minutes to go in the quarter. We were moving the ball pretty good all game. We had it in our hands again. This time we had a chance to go up 28-19 at the half! A lead that would have been the difference in the game. A lead that could have snapped the streak. A lead that, well, simply put, could have been the LEAD of the year.

As it turns out, we marched inside the 5 yard line and came away empty... again. We mixed up the play calling well, I thought. RB Brandon Hernandez was hit for a loss on 1st down. 2nd down we were nailed with a sack. All of a sudden we are back to the 14. On 3rd down, we were sacked again. However, we caught a break as Cooper was called for an offside penalty. This set up and 3rd and goal from the 9. We tried Brandon on a run again. Why? He is an All District Running Back that carries people with him. He makes things happen. Also, I didn't want to be stuck with a 4th and 9. Percentages say, the lesser the yards, the higher the execution rate. I was hoping for very manageable 4th and 4 or 5.

Brandon was hit again in the backfield again. This time getting back to the LOS. I was right where I didn't want to be: 4th and goal from the 9. Kicking a field goal was not in my plans. I have all the confidence in the world in our kicker, Ryan Rodriguez, however, at some point we need to overcome this red zone funk. I can't always kick field goals, especially in a few weeks once district games start. They need to learn to finish. Finish a drive! If we could put 7 on the board it would have been the giant step we need to take!

On 4th and 9, QB Layven Armendariz dropped back and fired a bullet over the middle at WR Bam Jackson. He was open. Bam was walking in with a TD... except a Cooper LB got his hand up at the last second and tipped the ball up and over Bam's head. TD lost. Turnover on downs. 28-19 lead not to be had.

My thought at this point was, let's get into half with the 21-19 lead. Our defense came out and did their job. We got the ball back and ran out the clock. We will take a halftime lead any day of the week. We were up at half on a state ranked opponent. Not a situation too many people would feel down about. 

We felt we could sustain the lead and grind out one more score. Cooper was receiving the 2nd half kick. If we could get a stop and punch one in, we would be alright. Cooper had other plans, however.

Cooper took the opening drive and scored. Their QB threw a long TD to beat our man coverage. I personally felt our coverage was good. CB Amadeo Conyers was in good shape. Travis Windham, the Cooper QB, threw one heck of a ball. Give them credit. Cooper up 27-21. 

We weren't worried. We kept the sore this way until we began a drive with eight minutes left in the 4th quarter. We faced a 3rd and 9 in Cooper territory. from the 48, Armendariz hit Cory Schovanec on the outside. "Schov" caught it, made a move, put his hand on the ground, and off he went. 44 yards later, we are on the 4 yard line. Five minutes to go. Down by 6. On the 4. Time to punch this in and get the "W".

On 1st down, Hernandez carried to the 2 yard line. 3 plays to get two yards! On 2nd and goal from the 2, Armendariz kept it. He was dropped for a loss. now we were looking at 3rd and goal from the 6. No panic. We felt we were going to be fine.

On 3rd and 6 we slipped Brandon out on a screen to the right. He was WIDE open. The only thing between Brandon and the end zone was turf. Turf! Layven released the ball. A strike, so it seemed, until Cooper's DE stuck his left hand out and tipped the ball away. The ball falls to the turf and you could hear the roar of the crowd turn to a groan. He was clearly open.

Now we had another 4th down. Had to get the ball into the end zone. We liked all of our options. This was the make or break play of the game. Everything we wanted was right in front of us. All the frustrations could end, right here, right now. It was time.

Layven dropped back. He peeked the post in the end zone. He didn't like it. He checked to number 2. He didn't like it. Layven stepped up in the pocket. He never checked off to #3. He was dropped for a sack before he could ever get the ball out. Our #3 check down, Brandon Hernandez, was standing wide open to the left. We just didn't get it out to him. Ball game over. Cooper (who added a safety late) wins 29-21. If we punch it in, the safety never happens and we win 28-27, assuming our D had one more stop in them.

Possibly 4 yards from victory. We were on the doorstep again. Can we get any closer?

I will say this. Layven Armendariz is one of the toughest players I have ever been around. We don't want anyone else back there running the offense. Next time out, he makes that play and we pull it out. He is a solid QB and he is our guy all the way to the end. Layven, you are an excellent QB and we have nothing but good times ahead of us. Mental toughness and attitude! You have everything it takes.

Another tough loss to swallow. But we swallowed it. I didn't give them any time to hang their heads. We were back in on Saturday at 9 a.m. No time to rest. Time to work and work harder, at that. 

We enter our bye week this week. We have two weeks to get ready for the Andrews Mustangs. We will be ready!

Good times are ahead! I have no doubt about that!

Talk to you tomorrow....

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