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Eagles grounded by Dunsmuir
For more than 23 minutes, Princeton High hung with defending section 8-man football champion Dunsmuir in the season opener Friday afternoon in Princeton.
Then a disastrous 35 seconds at the end of the first half crushed the Eagles' momentum and the Tigers went on to win 48-12.
Gavino Mitchum gave Princeton a 12-0 lead with two touchdown runs but the Tigers rallied and took an 18-12 lead with a Brian Taylor 70-yard punt return touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
The Princeton defense forced punts on Dunsmuir's next two drives before Taylor launched a 48-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Palmer with 35 seconds left in the half.
After debating taking a knee and going into halftime down just two scores, Princeton coach Bryan Lex elected to take a shot down field. Shawn Adams made Lex instantly regret making the call when he intercepted the pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.
Dunsmuir's lead ballooned from six to 20 points, 32-12, in the span of just 22 seconds. The Tigers tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half while holding the Eagles out of the end zone.
The early success of the Princeton offense was encouraging but the lack of depth behind Mitchum and Oscar Espinoza is a concern, Lex said. After racking up 185 yards in the first half, Princeton gained just 104 yards in the second half while Espinoza and Mitchum were slowed by cramps.
Mitchum was able to stay on the field late in the game but Espinoza was limited to just one touch in the second half, on a 21-yard pass from quarterback Lucas Hubbard.
"We moved the ball pretty well offensively but depth-wise we're (thin)," Lex said. "It's pretty encouraging to see those couple initial drives and that was positive… so I'm not altogether too disappointed."
During the first drive of the game, Mitchum took advantage of the Tigers keying in on Espinoza. Espinoza carried the ball on four of the Eagle's first five plays before Mitchum took a counter 30 yards for a touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, Luis Angel dove on a pooch kick by Julian Rosas and the Eagles used the same formula of Espinoza and Mitchum to drive 36 yards on seven plays. Mitchum scored on a 5-yard run through the left side of the line just beyond the halfway point of the first quarter.
The Tigers read-option offense finally got to run its first play more than six minutes into the game and Taylor went 70 yards for a touchdown on a quarterback keeper.
Princeton's inexperienced defense struggled the rest of the game to contain the read-option, which Taylor ran with crisp efficiency.
After a three-and-out by the Eagles, Dunsmuir running back Dayton Pepperdine finished off a game-tying, four-play, 34-yard drive with a 5-yard run.
"You've got to be disciplined, you can't just fly after what you think is the ball. You've got to get to a spot, that's your responsibility — especially in 8-man — nobody can be out of position or they'll find it," Princeton coach Bryan Lex said.
Pepperdine scored his second touchdown of the game with a 12-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the second half, and Jacob Mitchell finished the scoring with 32-yard touchdown run on his only carry of the game midway through the fourth quarter.
Mitchum led the Eagles with two touchdowns and 94 yards rushing on 14 carries. Espinoza ran for 51 yards on 12 carries, and caught three passes for 65 yards.
Eagles quarterback Lucas Hubbard rushed for 60 yards on 11 carries, and completed 3 of 9 passes for 65 yards.
Rosas sacked Taylor for a 3-yard loss in the second quarter. Juan Falcon and Hubbard forced fumbles, but Dunsmuir was able to retain possession both times.
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