ELKO— It’s hard to win football games when the offense is held to 26 yards in the first half and 101 for the ballgame.
North Valleys’ defense dominated Elko on Thursday night in the Indians’ home opener and strolled to a 23-0 victory.
The game started slowly offensively for both teams, North Valleys going three-and-out — Elko sophomore Preston Chamberlin making a tackle for a loss and a gang stop setting up 4th-and-9.
North Valleys’ punt was mishandled, and the Indians began their drive clear back at their own 5.
In kind, Elko went three-and-out after a couple short carries by sophomore Eli Finlayson and an incomplete pass.
From the Elko 43, the Panthers missed a man who was open deep down the post.
Senior Cohen Chapin dropped a ball carrier for a loss, and North Valleys punted — Elko muffing the catch.
However, junior Ayden Whiting charged the play and pounced the ball.
People are also reading…
Finlayson ran for six yards on two carries but was stuffed on third down, forcing another kick.
From midfield, the Panthers were also forced to kick — senior Blaze Jones sticking a receiver in the backfield and limiting senior quarterback Cameron Zeidler to a gain of four on 3rd-and-6.
The Panthers committed an illegal shift and booted the ball to senior Pete Romero, who returned to the Elko 20.
Finlayson ran for five yards, and Romero appeared to pick up a first down around the right edgee — a block in the back nullifying the chain mover.
Junior quarterback Justus Nielsen carried for five yards around the left side, but the Indians punted — the kick only traveling nine yards.
Luckily, for Elko, Jones once again dragged down a receiver for a loss of three.
A bad snap moved the ball all the way back to near midfield, and junior Mason Chacon had good coverage down the field on an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-24.
But, the Indians did not take advantage of getting the ball back with the game still scoreless.
Finlayson was stopped after a gain of three, Nielsen was sacked by senior Caleb Mang and Elko called a sweep on 3rd-and-23 — picking up three yards.
On the ensuing punt, the snap was bad and rolled back into the end zone for a safety.
The Panthers grabbed a 2-0 lead with 10:53 remaining in the second quarter.
Following the kickoff, North Valleys struck in just one play.
Zeidler pulled the ball on an option keeper and cut back to the right after breaking up the middle, Elko’s nose guard over-pursuing the play and leaving an alley down the sideline for a 57-yard touchdown.
Senior Jorge Torres added the extra point, opening a 9-0 lead with 10:33 on the second-quarter clock.
Elko’s next drive was another short affair.
Finlayson returned to the 25 and ran for a small gain after a false start, then was stopped dead at the line.
The possession ended with a sack, Sellers punting the ball 38 yards to the North Valleys 43.
North Valleys shot itself in the foot with penalties, and the defense turned in a big play.
Elko senior Brandon Dwyer intercepted a pass near midfield on 3rd-and-25, returning the ball to the Panthers’ 39.
However, North Valleys junior Johnny Padilla Lopez made a sack, and Romero ran for five yards on 2nd-and-15.
On 4th-and-8, Elko ran up Finlayson up the gut for only two yards — the Panthers committing a dead-ball foul but Elko turning the ball over on downs.
After Zeidler ran for eight yards on two carries, Elko was called for encroachment for a first down.
Senior Deric Polier caught a Zeidler pass for another chain mover, and No. 42 — not listed on the roster — ran for a first down, but the Panthers drew another dead-ball foul and marched backward.
Zeidler scrambled for 21 yards to the Elko 37, but a false start moved the rock back to the 42 — Jones coming free off the left edge for a strip sack.
The Panthers recovered the loose ball, and Jones made another tackle after a gain of four following a dropped pass.
Zeidler attempted to pick up the first down on 4th-and-long and picked up 10 yards, but Elko took over on downs.
The Indians ran for a short gain and elected to go to the locker room, running out the clock.
At the half, North Valleys led 9-0.
Elko punted on its first drive of the third quarter, but North Valleys was also forced to punt — the Panthers losing a first down after a 25-yard run by Zeidler with a holding penalty — the possession ending with a nice tackle by senior Braedon Swaffield and Chamberlin.
However, the Indians went three-and-out once again — North Valleys taking control of the contest on its ensuing drive.
Zeidler ran for 11 yards and a first down, a facemask penalty moving the ball to the Elko 30.
After a great hit, the Indians were called for unsportsmanlike conduct — setting up shop at the 15.
Zeidler made a man miss and rolled around the left edge for a 13-yard touchdown.
The extra point was blocked but Elko was offside, the second PAT splitting the uprights and opening a 16-0 lead with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Elko went three-and-out, and the Indians’ punt was blocked by senior Jarret Rank — senior Trystn Williams making a recovery at the Elko 29.
Zeidler used his legs for a 27-yard touchdown, but the Panthers were called for three penalties on the play — the ball marched backward to the 39.
On 3rd-and-14 from the 37, Chamberlin intercepted a Zeidler pass over the middle at the 25.
Following a Torres sack and an incomplete pass, Nielsen escaped pressure and darted for 17 yards on 3rd-and-16 — giving the Indians their initial first down with 1:41 remaining in the third.
Fesenmaier caught a ball in the right flat for six yards, but a sack by Polier forced a 3rd-and-16.
Chamberlin gained 12 yards on a reception down the seam, but an incomplete pass under high heat turned the ball over on downs.
Jones broke up a pass on fourth down and got the ball back for the Indians, who made their only significant charge down the field of the entire contest — using the mistakes of the Panthers.
Elko gained five first downs on the possession courtesy of North Valleys penalties — the majority of which were pass interference — a facemask after an eight-yard rush by Nielsen moving the ball to the Panthers’ 1.
But, on first-and-goal, the snap was a little low and off to the side — also dropped — and Mang jumped on the football at the 8-yard line for the Panthers.
North Valleys punted after a gorgeous deep ball from Zeidler was dropped on a post.
Elko, from its own 47, dropped a screen pass and didn’t lay out on a crosser down the field — the drive ending with a sack by senior Evan McGraw.
North Valleys broke the line and blocked the punt.
From the Elko 24, Zeidler dumped a pass for eight yards to Torres and then carried around the right side on a bootleg for a 15-yard touchdown — his third score of the contest.
The Torres PAT opened a 23-0 lead with 5:22 remaining in the game.
Whiting returned the kick to the 37, but Nielsen escaped a traffic jam and threw a deep shot down the middle — the ball dropped.
After a sack by McGraw and a delay of game, the Indians picked up a first down on 3rd-and-23 with a little trickery.
Nielsen threw a swing pass to the left side to Sellers, who loaded up and mailed a bomb to Chamberlin for a 46-yard gain to the North Valleys 30.
Nielsen dropped a dime down he left sideline, but the ball was dropped in the end zone.
On 3rd-and-10, Sellers took a shot down the right sideline — his pass intercepted in a crowd by senior Nathan Gonzalez at the 3 — returning the ball to the 35.
The Panthers ran out the clock and punted late, Elko getting in one last play before time expired.
North Valleys dominated defensively, rode the athleticism of Zeidler on offense and cruised to a 23-0 victory.
The Panthers outgained the Indians 288 yards to 101, Elko picking up just two first downs that did not come courtesy of penalties and seven in total.
Elko was held to 26 yards of total offense in the first half and 75 in the second half, 46 of which came on the double pass to Chamberlin.
The Indians (1-2) will play on the road for the next game, taking on Hug at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, in Reno.