What a difference just one year can make, eh?
Last year, the Bainbridge High varsity football team was handily defeated 52-28 by the King’s Way Christian Knights in the third game of the season.
This year, not so much.
The Spartans scored their first football win of the year — breaking a six-game losing streak (four straight losses last year and two this year) — in a 44-0 surprise shutout Friday, Sept. 15. The victory edged the Spartans’ overall season record to 1-2.
The night saw initial shock give way to cautious optimism amidst the gathered crowd of island sports fans, before, at last, with victory in sight, uproarious excitement set in.
“I think this will instill some confidence in us,” Spartan Head Coach Jeff Rouser said. “We got some opportunities to improve. We started out crazy on offense, then we kind of sputtered a little bit. But I loved the way our defense worked.
“You got to learn how to win,” he added. “Today, we learned how to win.”
And an effective lesson it was.
The first and fourth quarters were the best for Bainbridge, as the Spartans leapt out in front early and ended strong.
BHS led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, after a slew of scoring that started with a 14-yard run by Kyle Bierly in the game’s first moments.
Ethan Peloquin scored next, on a 13-yard pass from Gannon Winker, and Kyle Smit managed a 13-yard blocked kick return for the third touchdown.
Spartan kicker Tanner Shattuck went 3-for-3 in the first, as well, in point after attempts.
The second quarter was a bit of a lull comparatively, with just three points being chalked up on the Spartan side of the board, courtesy of a 37-yard field goal by Shattuck.
Neither team did much in the third, but the Spartan defensive squad managed to stay tight on the Knights to protect the island team’s decisive lead.
Then, in the fourth, the Spartans came roaring back to score 20 points and stuff more padding into their comfortable cushion.
Two fumble returns, and then an epic 85-yard run by Alex Ledbetter ended the game on a high, as Shattuck went 2-for-3 in the final quarter and the Spartans celebrated.
Winker passed 60 yards as QB this time out, completing eight-of-15 attempts. He also led the team in rushing yards (95).
Ledbetter rushed a total of 92 yards; Bierly, 56; and Max McLeod, 18.
On the receiving side, Ethan Peloquin chalked up 36 yards; Ledbetter, 10; and McLeod, nine.
The BHS defense had some stats to celebrate as well this time.
Jacob Hogger led the charge with five tackles and one assist Friday.
Abe Muldrow managed four tackles — two of them sacks.
A slew of Spartans also chipped in three tackles apiece: Nate Michaels, Spenser McCoskery, Reece Quesada, Bierly (one sack) and Peloquin (plus one assist).
Bierly in particular was singled out by the coach as an MVP of the game.
“He’s a stud,” Rouser said of the senior running back/linebacker. “He’s a captain, and probably the biggest leader on our team.”
Fellow Spartan senior Solon Rich also received a nod from Rouser following Friday’s win.
“[He] had a good game,” the coach said.
Also singled out for an attaboy was Assistant Coach W. Todd Harder. Improved tackling was an obvious area of improvement for the island team in their third outing, Rouser said, and he credited the defensive coordinator with doing a great job.
“He did a fantastic job,” Rouser said. “We weren’t tackling well in the first two games, especially last week.
“I think we just went back to basics a little bit. We were a little bit complicated and we kind of trimmed it back a little bit and focused on tackling and keeping the ball in front of us.”
The Spartan squad had been plagued with injuries during the early outings this season, though most of the players were back in rotation in time to play King’s Way.
Afterward, though, Rouser said the starting roster was again uncertain.
“We had some guys hurt, we had some guys who’d come back,” he said. “A lot of guys got hurt tonight.”
It seemed mostly to be just “bumps and bruises,” the coach said, though, of course, only time would tell for sure.
However, the latest injuries and the imminent matchup against Ingraham this week, the Spartans’ first conference game of the year, would not affect the style or focus of practice, Rouser said.
“It’s always business as usual,” he said. “We’re pretty methodical in our approach.”
Going ahead, Rouser said the team would need to examine the mechanics of their game plan.
“On offense we kind of sputtered,” he said. “We got to figure out mechanically what broke down in our blocking scheme.
“Our outside linebacker play was way, way better.”
The team, overall, was learning quickly, the coach explained.
“Some of these guys are getting to be more seasoned players.”
The Spartans next hit the road to face off against the Rams, in their first conference matchup, at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22. BHS will again play at home at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29 against Lakeside.