Atwater can't convert opportunities in loss to Pitman

Red-zone failures come back to haunt Falcons

slynch@mercedsunstar.comOctober 19, 2013 

— Bob Valladao couldn't contain his frustration.

His Atwater football team outplayed Pitman in many respects on Friday night, but came away with little to show for it.

The Falcons moved the ball consistently and effectively against a good Pride defense, but came up virtually empty in the red zone.

Atwater finished with just one score in five trips inside the Pitman 30, allowing the Pride to pull away late for a 35-14 victory at Joe Debely Stadium.

"You can't have that many failed trips to the red zone and expect to win," Valladao said. "We've got to get something figured out.

"I like our kids. They practice and play hard, but this game was there to win and we didn't get it done."

It was a golden opportunity to all-but lock up a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 playoffs and throw the Falcons' names into the Central California Conference title hunt.

But every time Atwater came up empty on a scoring chance, Pitman seemed to hammer it with a big play.

Things started poorly for the Falcons (4-3, 1-1 CCC) with four penalties helping the Pride (5-2, 1-1 CCC) march down the field on it opening drive.

Mario Lewis (15 carries for 71 yards) ran it in from 9 yards out for the first of two first-half touchdowns that helped Pitman build a 14-0 lead.

Ronald Evans (105 yards from scrimmage) helped the Falcons respond.

Nathan Duran found him in stride on a wheel route that got Atwater on the board with a 75-yard TD pass.

Pitman answered with some big pass plays of its own, and Wyatt Clapper (216 passing yards) hit Marcus Vasquez with a 24-yard touchdown pass with 53 seconds left in the half.

It was enough time for Atwater after Evans returned the ensuing kickoff to the Pitman 14-yard line. Edward Kemp took a fly sweep in 14 yards on the very next play and the Falcons went into intermission down 21-14.

The Falcon defense kept it that way for most of the second half.

Pitman's vaunted run attack was limited to 152 yards in the game, 59 of which came on its final drive.

But the Atwater offense couldn't capitalize.

A forced fumble handed the Falcons the ball at the Pitman 26, but they had to settle for a missed 39-yard field goal try.

Atwater marched right back into Pride territory on its next possession, but stalled and turned the ball over on downs at the Pitman 16 with 8:30 to go in the game.

Chance Hager delivered the knockout blow two plays later on a short hitch. He broke a pair of tackles and sprinted 68 yards for the score.

A fumble ended another promising drive for the Falcons and Pitman ate up the last six minutes of the game before Logan Wolfley broke a 25-yard run to make it a a 35-14 final.

"We came in thinking we had a good chance to win," linebacker Jojo Ochoa said. "We moved the ball, but young minds seem to start wandering when we get in the red zone.

"We can't settle for getting down there. We have to finish drives."

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