The Big Spring Steers kicked off their 2011 season in a tough defensive battle against Fort Stockton Friday night. In spite of moving the ball well and smothering the Panther offense, the Steers ended the night on the short end of a 7-6 game.
After falling behind 7-0 in the first frame, the Steers had to play catch-up the rest of the game and it wasn't until there was only 2:09 left in the game, following a long, sustained drive, that Michael Oliva pounded his way into the end zone for what appeared to be a game-tying score.
But the extra point attempt found its way a bit left of the mark, asking the hometown boys to rally for one more defensive stand and one more drive.
The Steers stood strong and forced the Panthers to a three-and-out and utilizing their two remaining time outs, got the ball back with 1:30 left on the clock.
Big Spring quarterback Garrett Stuteville began marching the team right back down the field, but on a tough third down run around the end, Stuteville took a hard shot while stretching for the first down. He had to watch the next several plays from the sidelines while trainers checked him out.
By the time he talked the trainers into letting him back into the game, the Steers had time for two more plays, but were still forty yards away from the end zone. Stuteville's next pass was intercepted by the Panthers to seal the deal and raise question to the seriousness of the young quarterbacks' injury. According to trainers and coaches, Stuteville suffered a contused shoulder and is expected to be back with the time by Monday or Tuesday.
“Garrett is starting to loosen up in the position,” Head Coach Phillip Ritchey said. “We wanted him to step up and be the leader of the team. We saw some of that tonight.”
Big Spring rushed for 189 yards and passed for 88 more. Their defense held the bunch from Fort Stockton to 100 yards on the night, with most coming on the first quarter scoring drive.
“I thought our defense played really well tonight,” Coach Ritchey said. “And the offense moved the ball really well against what I believe to be a pretty good football team.”
The deciding factor in the game came down to turnovers as Big Spring controlled the ball and the clock, amassing 17 first downs in the game, compared to Fort Stockton's six. But the two lost fumbles and two interceptions made the comeback and a season-opening win out of the question.
“Fort Stockton deserves this win,” Coach Ritchey said. “They didn't make the mistakes we made.”
The Steers will be home for their next game Friday night, hosting Frenship at 7:30 p.m.
“We came out of this game with a lot of positives to build on,” Coach Ritchey said.
After the game, the coach told his team that if they could build on what they did, it would all be worth it.
“We learned a lot tonight,” he told them. “If losing this game makes us stronger as a team, better, then I am glad we lost.”