The first week of high school football is supposed to be a winnable game. It’s more of a tune-up for the district games of the season than anything else. The game itself has little meaning, but it’s still one the Altus Bulldog football team wants — and expects — to win.
But sometimes, things don’t quite work out that way.
The game should have been a win for Altus. The Bulldogs fielded the superior team, but mistakes made all the difference in the Altus’ 23-20 season-opening loss to Cache.
The first Altus play from scrimmage set the tone for how the rest of the game would play out. Cabe Dickerson took a handoff that he never seemed to control before a Cache player jarred the ball loose, and the Cache Bulldogs took over at Altus’ 22-yard line.
Two plays later, Cache scored the go-ahead touchdown with 10:52 remaining in the first quarter.
It wasn’t how Altus wanted to start, but the Altus Bulldogs had to put the mistake behind them and focus on putting points on the scoreboard.
Altus’ second drive appeared to be heading in that direction as the coaching staff utilized the speedy Mysean Wells and sent him around the edge for several runs. But then, disaster struck again as a pitch out from quarterback Derek Beach to running back Joseph Buxton fell to the turf when a Cache defender hit Buxton.
The Cache Bulldogs were able to recover the ball, but Altus’ defense stepped up and shut down the Cache offense.
It was on Altus’ next drive that the Bulldogs were finally able to put points on the board.
The coaching staff relied on Dickerson early. He picked up a few yards here and there before punching through the line for 17 yards to set Altus up on Cache’s side of the field.
From there, Altus used D’Marco De La Paz who followed his blocker to the 2-yard line on a 23-yard run and took the ensuing handoff the remaining two yards for the touchdown.
Shortly after that, Cache attempted a lateral pass that bounced off the hands of the receiver and fell to the ground. Altus recovered the ball and took over on offense.
The Altus Bulldogs picked up a handful of yards on the ground before Beach stepped back and passed the ball to a wide-open Wells who scampered for 42 yards for another Altus touchdown. After a successful kick, Altus took a 14-7 lead with 10:46 remaining in the first half. But Cache scored on the next possession to tie the game at 14 heading into halftime.
Cache added three points on a field goal in the third quarter before De La Paz split the defense on a 5-yard touchdown run to give Altus a 20-17 lead. The score from De La Paz was set-up by Beach’s second pass of the game, a 34-yard toss to tight end Tyson Vernon.
Cache added the game-winning touchdown late in the third quarter and got the ball back after a successful onside kick attempt. After two back-and-forth drives from Cache and Altus, Dickerson gave Altus a boost when he picked off a Cache pass in the fourth quarter.
But Altus couldn’t make anything come out of the possession and Cache took back over on offense.
Shortly after, Dickerson came up with another big defensive stop when he recovered a fumble on Cache’s 17-yard line. Again, the drive stalled as the Altus Bulldogs couldn’t pick up a first down on a fourth-and-one near the goalline.
The Bulldogs had another chance to make something happen when Cache was forced to punt. The punt bounced off the chest of Wells and Cache recovered. The Cache Bulldogs then ran out the clock to seal the victory over Altus.
Coach Matt Terry said the team wouldn’t make excuses.
“We have a lot of room for improvement,” Terry said. “We had some bright spots and a lot of teachable moments. Obviously, turnovers are never a good thing. We will go back to work this week and get ready for Vernon. That one loss isn’t going to affect our playoff positioning, but it is going to allow us to correct some issues and get ready for our district schedule.”
Dickerson led all Altus rushers with 68 yards on 17 carries. Beach finished with 53 yards on six carries and also completed two of his three passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. De La Paz finished with 43 yards on 10 carries and Wells had 42 yards on eight carries.
The Altus Bulldogs will have a chance to pick up their first win on Friday when they take on the Vernon Lions in Vernon at 7 p.m.