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The Observer Paper 12/17/14

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Tigers drop opener to Nyssa

The La Grande High School football team kicked off a new era under Kenny Mace Friday night against Nyssa.

But in a battle against one of the state’s toughest 3A schools, the Tigers fell 58-14.

“Coming into this thing, switching what we did with the offense, you have a lot of kinks to work out,” Mace said.

“But it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.”

The Tigers employed a two-quarterback attack throughout the game, switching between Tyson Wicklander and Brandon Dall.

And while both quarterbacks showed flashes of potential, the offense sputtered for the majority of the game.

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, had no trouble moving the ball downfield.

Nyssa jumped out to an 18-0 lead in the first quarter and stretched it to 26-0 before the Tigers finally found paydirt with 4:57 left in the first half.

After Wicklander broke off a 61-yard run down to the one-yard line, he punched it in on a quarterback keeper on fourth and goal.

But the Bulldogs lead was never in doubt, as Nyssa scored twice more before the half to lead 42-6.

“They’re a darn good football team,” Mace said of Nyssa.

“I have so much respect for their coach (Lee Long). He’s been there so long, and when you’re there that long you can build programs like that.”

Nyssa slowed the attack in the second half but extended the lead to 58-6.

LHS was able to put together a scoring drive late in the game, when Wicklander connected with Jobin Reed for the Tigers’ second touchdown with 2:53 left to round out the scoring.

For the game Nyssa went a total of 361 yards on the ground and 161 yards through the air. La Grande went a total of 95 yards on the ground and 106 yards through the air.

Michael Smith carried 18 for 234 yards with two touchdowns. Austin Wagstaff had five for 41 yards with two touchdowns.

And while LHS managed just 14 points, Mace said he liked what he saw from his two quarterbacks and plans to stick with it.

“Those two guys worked their butts off. Dall showed some great things, and Tyson showed some great things,” Mace said.

“They’re both leaders on this team. We’re going to look at the film and decide what’s best for the team.

“But I do see us using (two quarterbacks).”

Despite the lopsided loss, Mace was optimistic that the Tigers will turn things around in coming weeks.

“We have our work cut out for us. It’s not an effort issue. It’s a hey, we have to keep our heads up and battle through adversity issue,” Mace said.

“It’s Game 1. There is a lot of season left. 

“We learned a lot about ourselves tonight.”

La Grande will travel to play Johnson High School in Sacrament, Calif., Saturday.

The Warriors lost to Golden Sierra 20-19 Friday.


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