SPENCER --Too many mental mistakes were the downfall of the South Putnam Eagles Friday night in a hard-fought loss to the Owen Valley Patriots.
"When you play a good football team, you can't make those kind of mistakes," coach Troy Burgess said following the 23-21 loss in the Eagles's first game of the season.
South Putnam rushed for 116 yards on the evening on 28 carries. Quarterback Jon Davidson, who played junior varsity last year, completed 13 of 25 passes for 154 yards. He threw one touchdown, and had one interception.
Burgess went with Davidson for the whole game, and he acknowledged that the senior was nervous early in the game.
"He still has to learn to settle down," the coach said. "He settled down better in the second half."
That was evident as he connected on more passes, especially as South Putnam tried to close the gap later in the game.
The Eagles scored on their first possession. It took five plays and less than two minutes for South Putnam to put six points on the board. That effort included carries by Jacob Parrish, Josh Sanders, a toss to Michael Sebanc, and Parrish breaking a couple of tackles to run into the endzone. The point after attempt was no good for South Putnam.
Owen Valley first scored on South Putnam's second possession. After penalties took the ball to the Eagles' seven-yard line, the Patriots were able to force Davidson into the endzone and tackle him for a safety. With 5:36 to go in the first quarter, South Putnam led 6-2.
The Patriots followed up on their next possession with another score as junior Brandt Warner ran the ball 57 yards down the side. Owen valley was up 8-6 with 4:16 left in the quarter.
On South Putnam's next possession, Davidson was intercepted at the Eagles' 35-yard line.
The quarter ended with the Patriots in the lead 8-6, and less than a minute into the second quarter, Owen Valley added another six points to the scoreboard as fullback Dillion Shedd ran it in. The two-point conversion was successful as junior Andrew Hershberger jumped over the middle into the endzone. The score was 16-6 with 11:17 still on the second quarter clock.
The second quarter was a letdown for South Putnam, coach Burgess said. And the second half didn't start much better as the Eagles fumbled away the ball on their first possession. With 8:45 on the clock, Davidson was sacked at his own 37-yard line. The punt away was blocked and Owen Valley recovered it on their own 27-yard line. The Patriots would score again on that possession, but it would be their final TD of the game.
With the score at 23-6, South Putnam came alive.
"We played a good second half," Burgess said. "We continued to fight and play hard."
The fourth quarter started with Davidson airing the ball out to Adam Hammond, Michael Sebanc and Ben Parker, who caught a 15-yard toss to take the score to 23-12. South Putnam made the two-point conversion with 10:47 to go in the fourth quarter. The score stood at 23-14.
Owen Valley made no progress on their next possession, but Davidson used passes and handoffs to get the ball from Owen Valley's 29-yard line to his own five-yard line. Parrish ran around to the right to carry the ball in for South Putnam's final touchdown with 3:30 left in the game. An Owen Valley penalty took the ball to the two-yard line where Jake Gould kicked it through the uprights. Score 23-21.
Once again, Owen Valley ran time off the clock on their possession, and left the Eagles' in good field position for their final drive of the game.
Davidson dropped the snap on the second play of the series, and that was the kind of mental mistake that Burgess said can make or break a game for the Eagles. A throw to Josh Sanders in the endzone was deflected by the Patriots' Warner.
With 45 seconds left, South Putnam attempted a field goal from the 29-yard line. Gould's kick missed to the left, and Owen Valley let the clock run down to end the game and seal their win, 23-21.
Burgess said he was pleased his team was balanced in its rushing and passing. Official statistics recorded 12 first downs by the Eagles, but 65 yards lost on penalties.
Owen Valley recorded only six first downs. Hershberger gained 101 yards on 25 carries, including one touchdown.
Fullback Dillon Shedd gained four yards on three carries, and one touchdown.
Both teams had good defensive play, Burgess said.
Parker's catches late in the game kept South Putnam in the contest, and the coach praised the senior tight end.
"He's tough to cover and he made some great plays for us," the coach said.
There was no standout player for the game, Burgess said, as they all contributed to the effort. He noted that Trent Knight and Brad Bunten both played well on both sides of the ball, while Parrish and Josh Sanders added senior experience.
"We just made too many mistakes. We beat ourselves," Burgess said.
He acknowledged that Owen Valley is a tough competitor (they defeated South Putnam 28-20 last year), but the season will not get easier for the Eagles.
Next Friday South Putnam travels to Tri West to face a strong team.
"The season is going to get much tougher as we go," he said.
South Putnam -- 6-0-0-15 -- 21
Owen Valley -- 8-8-7-0 -- 23