Missed opportunities were the theme of the game when the Heritage High football team took on Clovis East in an afternoon game on Saturday, Sept. 11. The Patriots were penalized by more missed opportunities than their opponents.
Heritage never led at any point of the game as the Patriots lost 35-14.
“They were more physical than us all day long -- on both sides of the ball,” Heritage coach Dave Fogelstrom said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage.”
One of the game’s key missed opportunities came early in the third quarter. Clovis East led 14-7 at halftime and received the second half kickoff but didn’t move the ball well and -- when faced with a 4th and 11 -- lined up to punt. The Patriots jumped offsides before the snap, creating an odd bit of good fortune.
While the five yards wasn’t enough for a first down, it was enough for the Clovis East coaching staff to send the offense back on the field to try to pick up the first down. The Heritage defense, though, stopped them, creating a turnover on downs and setting up the Patriots in Timberwolves territory. But they couldn’t take advantage of the good field position.
When Clovis East got the ball back, they drove down the field and scored, opening up a 21-7 lead. From that point on, the Heritage defense -- which had generally played well in the first half -- began to tire and the game got away from the Patriots.
“I think we got a little bit gassed in the second half,” Fogelstrom said. “We had a great opportunity in the third quarter after we stopped them on that fourth down on a short field. We didn’t capitalize on it. They turned around and had a long drive after that. We just could never get in the game.”
Despite the loss, the game wasn’t without its good moments for Heritage. Junior linebacker Cole Sunga intercepted a first-quarter pass to set the Patriots up with good field position.
But for the Patriots, that was immediately followed by an interception from Heritage quarterback, sophomore Jacob Wasso. The Clovis East offense took over from there and drove for the game’s first score to open up a 7-0 lead.
With the Timberwolves driving late in the first quarter, Patriots junior linebacker Jeremiah Ruffin intercepted a pass on the final play of the first quarter. That not only thwarted a potential Clovis East scoring drive but also set Heritage up for one of their own. The Patriots opened the second quarter up with a near seven-minute drive that was capped off by a three-yard touchdown run from junior running back Devon Rivers to tie the game.
The Timberwolves immediately answered from there, though, responding with a long touchdown drive to regain the lead, which they would hold throughout the remainder of the game.
“We made a bunch of mistakes,” Fogelstrom said. “We threw some bad passes, dropped some passes, we were out of position at times. We did a lot of things that a young team does. We made a lot of rookie mistakes that I thought we’d gotten over after the Granada game. We’ve got to get back to the drawing board. That’s all you can do. Just try to step up and get better.”
Rivers actually accounted for both Heritage touchdowns on the afternoon. In addition to his rushing touchdown, he and Wasso also connected on a downfield pass that resulted in a 60-yard touchdown.
The game against Clovis East marked an end to what’s been an unusual early season schedule for the Patriots, who have yet to play a traditional Friday night game. Heritage was set to open its season on the road against Dublin on Friday, Aug. 27 but that was rescheduled to Monday, Aug. 30 due to the poor air quality. In between the losses to Dublin and Clovis East was a win against Granada, which was also played on a Saturday.
Heritage has also not played a game at their home field yet. The first of those will come on Friday, Sept. 17 against James Logan at 7 p.m. The Patriots will be looking to improve to 2-2 while the 0-3 Colts will vie for their first win.
Fogelstrom did not use the odd schedule as an excuse. While the loss to the Timberwolves was technically a neutral site game, the Patriots had a clear home-field advantage, as it was played at Liberty and kicked off at noon.
“They had to take a three-and-a-half hour bus ride to get here -- we drove five minutes,” the coach said. “If anyone should have had the advantage, it should have been us. We just didn’t step up like we should have.”
Saturday’s game was played at Liberty because it was part of the Norcal Honor Bowl -- a high school football showcase event featuring four (originally five but moved to four when two teams had to cancel) games. At the end of each game, the Honor Bowl awards two players per team, one for showing the most character and the other for being his team’s MVP. Rivers won the MVP while junior linebacker Brock Lombardi earned the character award.
In addition to being a high school football showcase, the Honor Bowl helps veterans and helps teach the football players from all participating schools about sacrifices made by military service members.
“We were humbled that they chose us to play in this game, to represent the BVAL,” Fogelstrom said. It didn’t work out the way we wanted to. But it’s for a great cause and we’re excited to be a part of it.”