After an opening night loss to the Granite Bay Grizzlies, questions regarding what the Damonte Ranch Mustangs team will look like this season will have to wait another week before answering. The Mustangs started a quarterback not-named-McNamara for the first time since early in the 2015 season. Ethan Kulpin started the night at quarterback for the Mustangs, but it was on the defensive side of the ball where he stood out. Kulpin finished the night with a double-digit number of tackles and logged time at wide receiver as well. Freshman West Smith finished the game at quarterback for the Mustangs and led them in attempts, completions, and yards.
Smith stands six feet, four inches, has a strong arm, and a poise that defies his age. Smith struggled, at times, facing heavy pressure from the Grizzlies who brought extra pressure on the freshman quarterback all night. The Grizzlies consistently forced Smith out of the pocket and into attempting difficult passes. The Mustangs also hoped to get sophomore running back Ashton Hayes into open space where he could utilize his speed; however, the Grizzlies defense did not allow Hayes to get into the open field which limited his impact on the game. The Grizzlies outperformed the Mustangs consistently on both sides of the ball in what was a close affair going into the fourth quarter.
At the half, the Grizzles led the Mustangs 6-0. The Mustangs had moved the ball on the Grizzlies, including two trips inside the red zone, resulting in two turnovers after having had two first and goal situations. The Mustangs committed a number of turnovers on the night, putting their defense on the field while often giving the Grizzlies a short field. To crediting the Mustangs defense, they kept the game close into the fourth quarter, but the constant pounding from the Grizzlies run game eventually gave Granite Bay an advantage the Mustangs could not overcome. Hayes did put the Mustangs on the board in the fourth quarter which led to an onside kick, recovered by the Mustangs, but an interception dashed all hopes of a rally for Damonte.
Sophomore Nick Vargas left the game in the fourth quarter due to cramps, and there were no other Damonte injuries to report.
Up Next – the Mustangs host Rocklin (CA). The “Thunder” are 2-0 on the season with wins over Antelope and Franklin. The Thunder’s offense is averaging 39 points per game and their defense is allowing 14 points per game. Damonte will be looking to improve the play on both lines while hoping to get Ashton Hayes going.
Lynn Ault | Writer
Lynn Ault is the “voice of the Mustangs”, announcing football, basketball, and wrestling for Damonte. His daughter graduated from Damonte in 2017 after playing basketball and two years of varsity cheerleading. His son is a senior and plays football for the Mustangs.