The Pleasanton Eagles suffered their first shutout loss at home in 11 years in their 2020 season opener with the Hondo Owls on Friday, Aug. 28.
The Eagles fell 31-0 after a 12-day layoff and a week of practices to prepare for Hondo. Though those factors contributed to the loss, Head Coach Stephen Liska said his team needed to overcome the adversity and play to what they’re capable of.
“Well, obviously it had an effect on [the game]. But you know, once we played the first half, we felt like we were back up to game speed,” Liska said.
Trailing 10-0 with under a minute left in the first half, the Eagles felt they were back in rhythm inside Hondo’s redzone. Pleasanton appeared to gain a first down on an A.J. Ayala run on fourth-and-two, but a measurement overturned the initial first down call and the ball went over to Hondo on downs. The Owls would run out the clock on three plays following the turnover-on-downs.
“We had an opportunity there right before the half and I had to call a timeout because we got the first down with 20 seconds left,” Liska said. “The clock was running and I had to call timeout. So it gave them the opportunity to get a measurement and unfortunately we were about a nose short, I guess when they measured.”
The Owls outgained the Eagles 322 yards of total offense to 143. On the legs of Trey Dickens’ 91 rushing yards and one touchdown and Carson Winchester’s two receiving touchdowns, the Owls kept out of reach from the Eagles.
“We didn’t really see any film on them because we didn’t have a scrimmage. So, we didn’t exchange film,” Liska said. “We had an idea because we’ve scrimmaged them the last couple years. So, we knew they had some good skill kids coming back, that quarterback [Brandon J. Garcia] and that big running back [Dickens].”
Liska was also encouraged with Ashon Thompson and Ty Hehman on the defensive side against Hondo. Thompson, who led the team in interceptions a year ago, picked up his first of 2020 in the second half. Hehman, who served as the lone captain for the coin toss on Friday night, tallied seven tackles.
“Those two guys are two stalwarts on the defense. I mean, they’ve both been starting since they were sophomores,” Liska said. “So, you know, again, Ashon’s one of the leaders in interceptions last year, and he’s one of the best athletes around and Ty’s just solid. I mean, he’s a solid kid.”
This year, the Eagles are looking to find a bell cow to carry the ball with Joel Arevalo out this year due to injury. Senior Toby Garner showed glimpses of brilliance for the Eagles with 52 yards on 13 carries.
“It’s definitely encouraging,” Liska said. “We know what Toby can bring to the table and we’ve got some other cats that can rotate in there and carry the ball, as well. Early on, we’re going to do that to keep our legs and just keep fresh throughout the season but yeah, Toby, he’s a difference-maker.”
The quarterback competition between senior Cole Wiechring and sophomore Sean Ramos will continue another week after Liska said he was “proud” of the two QBs. Ramos had 28 rushing yards and was 1-of-7 passing for nine yards. Wiechring was 1-of-2 passing for 20 yards with one interception.
“I’m proud of both of them,” Liska said. “It’s difficult because we didn’t have seven-on-seven due to COVID-19. So we weren’t really sure where we were. Then being off, just the rhythm and the timing [were off]. Being out for seven practices and missing the live scrimmage, I mean it affected everybody.”
Pleasanton (0-1) will travel to Poteet (1-0) to square off with the Aggies for the first time since 2015 on Friday, Aug. 4, at 7:30 p.m.