MONAHANS — It was the Steers' last chance to make their mark in district play against a formidable Monahans squad — whose only district loss came to No. 2 ranked Wylie — on the road Friday, but a lack of offensive execution in the second half put the Loboes on top, 36-13.
Though it wasn't the way BSHS Head Coach Phillip Ritchey wanted the season to end, he remains optimistic Big Spring's future is bright.
“We're halfway back,” Ritchey said. “We've made some drastic improvements. There a lot of positives. Last year, we weren't in a lot of games. This year, we won five games. We played well against Wylie. It's a tough district.”
The Steers' potential was on display, at least for the first half of Friday's outing. The defense held Monahans scoreless for the first quarter. The offense began to click in the second quarter, when under a minute in, sophomore quarterback Tobyn Tannehill — who completed 11-of-27 passes for 211 yards — connected with junior receiver Tate Kennedy to put the Steers up 6-0. The PAT attempt by Devin Roberson was blocked.
Monahans responded with a 42-yard field goal to bring the Loboes within three, then ran in a five-yard touchdown to take a 10-6 lead with 44 seconds remaining in the half.
Roberson caught a 24-yard pass from Tannehill with nine seconds left, then kicked a valid extra point, giving the Steers a 13-10 lead.
Halfway through the third stanza, a Big Spring fumble which was run in for a touchdown by Monahans proved to be the pivotal moment in the game.
The Loboes scored 26 unanswered points from the point of the fumble on, sending the Steers home with a 5-5 record.
“(Monahans) had one of the best defenses we've seen,” Ritchey said. “I thought the kids played well until we fumbled the ball. Once that happened we kind of melted. There is no room for error against a team like Monahans.”
Winning half their games may be a vast improvement from last season's 0-10 record, but Ritchey is disppointed with his squad's winless district showing.
“After winning the first five games, it's frustrating to see teams we beat that are headed to the playoffs.” Ritchey added. “We could have run the ball better and we weren't 100% — we had some banged up guys — but I don't make any excuses.”
Ritchey will be losing valuable senior leadership and skill with the departures of Chris Nunez, Diamond Bailey, Joseph Morelion and Michael Oliva, Max Pappajohn and Carl Green to name a few, but will retain promising young athletes including Tobyn Tannehill, Devin Roberson, Tate Kennedy, Ronnie Bell and Tyler Wigington — all of whom have played integral roles in the Steers' marked improvements.
“After being on the team last year,” Ritchey added, “We challenged (the seniors) to work hard during the off season and they did. They led us to be a better team. My hat's off to them.”