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Over in a snap: Merced College falls to Monterey Peninsula

MONTEREY -- Twenty-one minutes. That's how long it took on Saturday night for the excitement surrounding Merced College's football opener to be stomped out of both the Devils and their fans.

Four atrocious MC special teams miscues -- including a muffed punt and three snaps launched over the head of punter Lihikai Domingo -- led to four Monterey Peninsula touchdowns.

Thus Merced spotted the team ranked No. 20 in Northern California a 34-0 lead midway through the second quarter -- and the grateful Lobos eventually cruised to 41-13 rout.

"In my 32 years of coaching, I've never experienced anything like that first quarter," MC coach Tony Lewis said. "Everything you could do wrong, we pretty much did. As coaches, there was a moment where I just sat there shocked.

"It was like a surprise kick to the groin."

The Blue Devils' woes began before they even gained possession, when return man Don Moorman dropped a punt at his own 9-yard line.

Monterey recovered and Brian Reader tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brett Taylor three plays later.

It only got worse from there.

Domingo watched as consecutive missles from long snapper Darius Roland sailed over his head.

Domingo managed to dive on one loose ball and kicked the second out the back of the end zone for a seldom-seen illegal touching penalty.

Domingo had no shot at catching either, with both balls rolling over 30 yards down field to hand the Lobos two more starts inside the 10-yard line.

Monterey cashed in on both opportunities and had a 21-0 lead with two and a half minutes left in the opening quarter.

"Darius snapped the first one high and we just thought it was a freak thing," Lewis said. "Then he snapped the second one ...

"It's one of those things that we obviously have to get figured out in practice or, well...

"We showed how disastrous it could be."

Even a change of snappers provided no relief.

Ricardo Cardenas tried his hand at it, but he also launched one over Domingo's head early in the second quarter -- setting up another Monterey touchdown.

"Both guys have plenty of long snapping experience," Lewis said. "We just made some bonehead mistakes."

Monterey sandwiched a pair of field goals around that score, taking a 31-0 lead into the break.

Unfortunately for Lewis, special teams weren't MC's only problems on Saturday.

The explosive offense Lewis expected to see didn't find its feet until the game was long out of reach.

The Blue Devils' lack of running game played a big role in that.

Lewis' young offensive line had trouble creating holes, making MC a one-dimensional team.

Running back Garrett Turner managed only 18 yards on 16 carries and Roland was good for 11 yards on six carries.

Blue Devils quarterback Ryan Williston did throw a pair of touchdown passes late in the game, hitting Marquese McIntyre for 68 yards and Moorman for 16 yards.

Williston finished 19 for 40 for 289 passing yards -- but most of those yards were meaningless.

"Those punts definitely changed the complexity of the game," Williston said. "I learned a lot from the game and I think we were able to get some things working at the end of it.

"Hopefully, we can build on that for next week."

Despite what the score seemed to indicate, MC's defense played well.

Monterey only managed 228 yard of total offense.

Had it not been for Domingo's minus-91 yards rushing while chasing down punt snaps, the Blue Devils would have outgained their hosts.

Lewis will focus on those positives as MC tries to bounce back against De Anza in its home opener Saturday.

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