When the Marana Tigers lost Reese Howard to injury on the opening series Friday night against Amphitheater, it underscored how injuries have hurt the Tigers, and made it difficult to develop cohesion.
Amphitheater running back Gustavo Gastelum rushed for 118 yards and three short touchdowns, leading Amphi to a 21-0 home win on opening night. Marana's Tigers face rival Mountain View this Friday.
Howard's ankle injury was severe enough that he had to be taken off the field in a cart.
"I know it was an ankle," said Marana coach Anthony Coronado. "But I don't know where it's at yet."
"It was hard (losing him) because Reese is a great kid," Coronado said. "We don't have our full group. I'm not trying to use injuries as an excuse, but we're still trying to get our five into a unit."
The Tigers defense stiffened and appeared to be more galvanized after the injury.
"We preach family," Coronado said. "For a good amount of the game, we played good defense.
"Thirteen of those points they got were on mental lapses. We played good, hard football in the first quarter."
After the initial emotion of the Tigers wore off, the Amphi offense dug in. After a scoreless first quarter, the Panthers drove and scored on a 6-yard run by Gastelum. Gastelum scored on a 2-yard run just a few minutes later, and after the kick failed, Amphi held a 13-0 lead.
Gastelum was a thorn in the side of the Tigers all night long. His final touchdown came in the fourth quarter, as Marana's defense allowed one score in the second half.
"They only had the one drive against us," Coronado said.
Quarterback Zach Roth befuddled the Tigers' run defense most of the night, rushing for 70 yards.
"They're learning why we teach about pursuit angles," Coronado said.
Overall, the Panthers punished the Tigers for 290 yards rushing on 52 carries. By comparison, the Tigers mustered 74 yards rushing, and 34 of those came on a run by quarterback Robert Contreras.
Contreras completed three of 11 for 37 yards in his first start. The junior was not intercepted.
"Our quarterback did a good job checking some of the things at the line. We saw a lot of good potential," Coronado said. "Sure, he showed first-game QB stuff. Sometimes, he was gun-shy when he should've passed it. But he's gotten the first one out of his belt."
Contreras completed a 31-yard pass to Josh Boak in the second half. Minutes later, Boak executed a flea-flicker, completing a 29-yard pass to King Perez that moved the Tigers to the Amphi 30. The drive ended when the Tigers lost the ball on a third-down handoff.
Boak led the team with 29 yards rushing, caught two for 35 yards, and also passed for 29 yards.
Friday's game is at home.
"Our kids are excited. It's been a hiatus of six or seven years," Coronado said. "I'm glad we got it back. The two schools are very competitive."
Rushing: Josh Boak 12-29, Robert Contreras 9-26, Kord Catt 2-14, Louis Payne 3-5;
Passing: Robert Contreras 3-11-0, 37 yards, Josh Boak 1-1-0, 29 yards;
Receiving: Josh Boak 2-35, King Perez 1-29, Randy LaFaye 1-2.
Rushing: Gustavo Gastelum 19-118, Zach Roth 9-70, Alfonso Avitia 6-48, Sam Nunez 13-37, Ricardo Martinez 1-13, Clarence Williams 1-3, Alan Sandoval 3-1;
Passing: Zach Roth 2-8-0, 16 yards, Gaven DeFilippo 0-1;
Receiving: Clarence Williams 1-9, Sam Nunez 1-7.
Amp-Gastelum 6 run (Erik Morales kick)
Amp-Gastelum 2 run (kick failed)
Amp-Gastelum 5 run (Alan Sandoval run)