This was not the way Wasson envisioned starting the 2012 football season.
Visting 2A La Junta used a stout defensive effort and timely big plays to defeat the 3A Thunderbirds 26-14 at Garry Berry Stadium in a Week Zero matchup.
“It’s a wake-up call,” second-year Wasson coach Jeff Palmer said. “Our defensive line played way too high and the tackling was horrendous. We just made too many mistakes on stuff that we practice all the time and we have some things to work on.”
The Tigers (1-0) had two running backs almost reach the century mark in yards and controlled the clock throughout, but it was the big plays that La Junta won huge on.
After the Tigers took a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, Wasson quarterback Richie Perea led his team on an 11-play, 71-yard scoring drive which he capped with a 2-yard touchdown run.
However, that would be as close as Wasson (0-1) would get. Tanner Cox took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and with a score of 20-7 all of the wind was taken out of the Thunderbirds’ sails.
“They came out in the first half and just smacked us right in the mouth; I’ve never seen a team come out that strong,” said Perea, who finished 18-for-30 for 252 yards. “We weren’t mentally prepared in the first half and in the second half we shut them down, but we have to stop messing around in practice and focus.”
La Junta struck again, as quarterback Elias Altamirano hit Joel Johnson for a 61-yard scoring pass to make the score 26-7 before the half.
While the Thunderbird defense picked it up considerably in the second half – not allowing a point – the Wasson offense was the problem. In its first four series of the second half the offense turned the ball over twice and punted twice.
By the time Perea found DJ Hanes for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 3:37 left in the fourth quarter, it was much too late.
“La Junta knew when to turn it up on defense; we would go hard and then they would come back harder and stop what we had going,” said Wasson running back Theron Brandt, who ran for 110 yards and added 82 receiving yards. “Coach told us all week they would come out hard but we took them a bit lightly.”
For La Junta it was a great start to the 2012 campaign. The Tigers will see few teams in the 2A Tri-Peaks with the overall size and speed Wasson featured.
“We were a little worried about playing a 3A school, but it was good for us to see some competition and find out what we’re made of,” La Junta coach Clint Buderus said. “We wanted to find out what we had and we answered the bell.”