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St. Mary’s offense sputters against Dragons

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Monday September 10, 2001

The St. Mary’s football team got off to a slow start on Saturday, barely gaining 100 total yards and committing four turnovers in a 27-6 loss to rival Bishop O’Dowd. 

The Panthers got just 59 rushing yards from star tailback Trestin George, and the team’s only score came on a 79-yard kickoff return by Courtney Brown. The Dragons, on the other hand, gained 297 yards, including 250 yards on the ground. Senior tailback Matt Fountaine, O’Dowd’s leading rusher last year, gained 112 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns, but was overshadowed by teammate Tyson Butler. Butler, a junior, displayed a punishing running style, carrying Panther defenders for 138 yards on 16 carries and one score. 

“Fountaine’s the guy everyone talks about, but (Butler) was the guy we were worried about all week,” St. Mary’s head coach Jay Lawson said after the game. “We saw him scrimmage last week, and we saw that he runs hard and low. He was dragging our guys around all day.” 

Butler scored the Dragon’s first touchdown just before the end of the first quarter on a three-yard carry with three Panthers on his back. The drive was set up by an O’Dowd fumble recovery on their own 45-yard line when St. Mary’s quarterback Steve Murphy threw an option pitch to no one in particular. The fumble was one of seven by St. Mary’s in the game, as George coughed up the ball twice and Murphy, starting his first game at quarterback, had trouble with the exchange from center Rodny Acda and fumbled four snaps. 

“I think we were a little nervous on our snaps, and Steve was pulling out too soon,” Lawson said. “Those turnovers were costly, especially early in the game.” 

Murphy also threw two interceptions in the game, both long passes intended for Alexander. O’Dowd cornerback Jared Harris had Alexander blanketed on both plays and came up with both picks.  

Murphy ended up with just 57 passing yards, but more deflating was the Dragon’s strong defense on George, who is considered one of the top running backs in California. Although the senior had four runs for over 10 yards, the Dragons did a good job of containing him on the perimeter. 

“We stepped up to the challenge of Trestin George today,” O’Dowd head coach Paul Perenon said. “Everyone was calling this week saying he was unstoppable, but we kept him out of the end zone.” 

The Dragons’ running game was much better, as Fountaine and Butler followed the blocks of 6-foot-7, 315-pound right tackle Michael Gray for much of their yardage. 

“We knew they’d run behind their big guy, and they just out-hit us,” Lawson said. “They used a ball-control offense, and they were able to pop the big play when they needed it.” 

Butler had two of those big plays in the third quarter, both extending touchdown drives. First, following Harris’ first interception of the game, Butler bulled his way for 27 yards down to the St. Mary’s 15-yard line, and Fountaine scored three plays later from three yards out to make the score 13-0. Then, when the next O’Dowd drive was in danger due to a holding call, Butler broke off a 32-yard run to inside the St. Mary’s 10. A holding call on the next play brought the ball back a bit, but Dragon quarterback Danny Brethauer lofted a pass just over leaping St. Mary’s cornerback Rob Leray into Dan Balich in the corner of the end zone for another score. 

The Panthers had a ray of hope on the ensuing kickoff, as Kenny Griffin took in the kick and lateraled it to Brown, who ran 79 yards untouched for the Panthers’ only score of the game. But the offense continued to sputter, and another Foutaine touchdown run with four minutes left in the game put the final nail in the coffin. 

Lawson, who is in his first season as a head coach, said his players need to be ready to play when they face El Cerrito this Saturday. 

“We need to get back to the basics,” he said. “We need to more physical and aggressive. We can’t turn the ball over like that and expect to win.”