LUBBOCK — Playing without a group of starters that included quarterback Gabriel Baeza, center Derek Howard and pass rusher Caydon Rash, the Big Spring Steers fell to the Lubbock High Westerners 48-12 on Thursday night in their first loss of the season.
“There’s a lot of things that played into this loss. At the end of the day, they were just the better team than we were tonight,” Head Football Coach Cannon McWilliams said.
It was a tough night for the Steers in the penalty department and offensively the center-quarterback exchange lacked its usual consistency. On defense, the lack of pass rush and a few missed coverages allowed for the Westerners to make a handful of big plays in the passing game.
Sophomore Eli Cobos got the start at quarterback for the Steers and played well following a shaky start to the game and all other factors considered. Even when they were trailing big, Big Spring vocal leader Isaiah Holloway was pacing the sidelines and telling his teammates, “We got this.”
Holloway’s leadership extended out onto the field and the junior put together a strong rushing performance. He has an undeniable motor and it took more than one Lubbock defender to take him down mostly every time he touched the ball.
“Holloway does a good job leading us vocally,” McWilliams said.
The Steers will now have an extra day to prepare for the Littlefield Wildcats next Friday night. McWilliams knows this week was the first true adversity that his team has faced and he expects his players to come to practice the entire next week prepared to wash the bad taste that this game left out of their mouths.
“A lot of these guys got some playing time at some spots that they usually don’t see a lot of action,” McWilliams said. “Experience is the best teacher. We’ll go watch the film together and learn from it and grow from it. Hopefully the kids will be able to look back on this game as a growing point for them.”
Lubbock High received the opening kickoff and got straight to work on Friday night. The Westerners had five plays that went for 10 or more yards on their opening drive and their offense was clicking in their first action of 2020.
An Elijah Darrow sack set the Westerners back seven yards and forced them into a 3rd-and-17 just outside the red zone. Lubbock quarterback Brandon Smith then found wide receiver Noe Tijerina open for a completion that Tijerina took 22 yards to the end zone for the first score of the night. The extra point attempt was good and the Westerners held a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Big Spring had a pair of offensive penalties on their first drive and they were forced to punt it away after just over a minute of having possession.
A few drives later, Lubbock’s Smith started off the possession with a 20-yard strike to Tijerina. Then, he scrambled for a 34-yard gain and the Westerners were set up at the Big Spring 25-yard line. Following a false start penalty, Smith then found wide receiver Maurice Ramirez for his second passing touchdown of the game on a 28-yard connection. The extra point kicking attempt was good and Lubbock led 14-0 with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
Big Spring’s next drive began with a 25-yard rumble down the field by Holloway but quickly stalled out thereafter and the Steers turned the ball over on downs at the Lubbock 27-yard line.
The very next play Lubbock’s Smith found his wide receiver Darin Mendez wide open behind the Steers’ secondary and threw a perfectly-placed pass into Mendez’ hands. Mendez then took it the rest of the way into the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and the Westerners led 21-0 with 11:07 left in the first half.
Big Spring punted again on their next drive and Lubbock was once again ready to charge down the field for a score. Smith connected with his running back Benny Soto on a screen pass that went for 41 yards down to the Big Spring 15-yard line.
There was then a pass interference call on the Steers on the next play that set up the Westerners at the 2-yard line. Smith then powered his way through the line for a rushing touchdown from two yards out. This time, the extra point attempt failed and Lubbock led 27-0 midway through the second quarter.
The Steers next offensive drive went all the way down into the Lubbock red zone and inside the 10-yard line. After an incompletion on first down and a loss of three yards on second down, Cobos was sacked for a loss of nine yards on third down that forced them into a 4th-and-goal from the 19-yard line. Cobos’ next pass intended for Pablito Dehoyos fell incomplete and the Steers turned the ball over on downs.
Big Spring held the Westerners to no score before halftime and Lubbock went into the break holding a 27-0 lead after intercepting Cobos on the last play of the first half.
After punting on their first possession of the second half, defensive tackle Elijah Darrow quickly muscled his way into the backfield and forced a fumble that set his team up at the Lubbock 26-yard line.
Facing a 4th-and-11 after a third down sack, Cobos threw a perfect spiral down the right sideline and into the hands of Kaegen Mitchell for a 27-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was not good and the Lubbock lead was now 27-6 with 7:36 left in the third quarter.
Lubbock came back out ready to take those points back and Smith connected with Mendez once again. This time it was a slant pattern that Mendez caught and took 58 yards to the house. The extra point attempt was good and the Westerners led 34-6.
A low snap caused a fumble on the Steers’ next drive and Lubbock took over in great field position. Smith then found Tijerina wide open on a flag route for another Lubbock touchdown that gave them a 41-6 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Holloway then fumbled on the next Big Spring possession. Lubbock ran two straight rushing plays that combined 42 yards and put them into the end zone once again. This time, it was Soto taking it 28 yards into the end zone for a 48-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Darrow absolutely de-cleated a Lubbock running back on one of the Westerners’ fourth quarter drives for the big hit of the game. A few plays later, the Steers found themselves with 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line.
A few plays later, the Steers were facing fourth down from the 11-yard line when Cobos was able to find Dehoyos in the middle of the field for a touchdown. Big Spring trimmed Lubbock’s lead to 48-12 with four minutes left in the game.
Lubbock then ran out the clock and came away with a win in their first action of the 2020 season while the Steers lost their first game of the year.
The Steers will need to learn from their mistakes made on Thursday night and correct them by the time they take the field next Friday night in Littlefield.
Shawn Moran is the sports writer at the Big Spring Herald. To contact him, e-mail email@example.com or call 432-263-7331.