Incline football | Highlanders strong early in loss to ROP
Through one half of Thursday’s Rite of Passage at Incline football game, a 0-0 final at the end of regulation seemed a real possibility.
Visiting ROP heated up late, however, scoring six points in the third quarter before exploding for 22 in the fourth en route to the 28-0 win.
“We were still in the thing until the fourth quarter,” said Incline coach Scott Conn. “My kids played the most physical game they’ve played all year, which is what we’ve been waiting for. Our young team is learning that it’s better to give the blows than to take the blows.”
The Highlanders hung as best they could with their battered lineup. Sophomore third-string quarterback Alex Zissis took the snaps for injured starter Jack Clouthier, as second-string QB Kelsey Philpott also was out with an injury.
Zissis did a commendable job against a large and athletic ROP squad. He finished 6-of-15 for 68 yards, with two interceptions, as he was pressured much of the night by Rams defenders.
“Alex Zissis did a great job in his first start at quarterback,” Conn said. “But you can imagine it’s somewhat confusing being out there for the first time, especially against a team that is as big and athletic as ROP.”
Senior running back Kevin Kurashewich rushed for a team-high 43 yards on seven carries, running the ball hard up the middle, Conn said, while Owen Graffis gained 7 yards on three carries. Conn also called junior receiver Jack Bessette a pleasant surprise as a return man. Aside form his two receptions for 39 yards, Bessette averaged nearly 30 yards a return.
Graffis caught three passes for 15 yards and Ben Snyder caught one ball for 14 yards.
Former defensive tackle Michael Guymon, a sophomore, led the Incline defense with 14 tackles, including 11 solo, from his new outside linebacker position.
“Michael Guymon was outstanding on defense,” Conn said. “In pace against some of their fastest guys, he’d drill ‘em. We found a tremendous outside linebacker in Michael Guymon.”
Rick De Lacerda recorded 12 tackles, Masxsimo Battel had 10 tackles, Snyder had nine and Kenhy Savelieff eight.
The Highlanders gained 17 first downs in the contest and committed only three penalties. But they hurt their cause with three fumbles.
Incline fell to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in Northern Division I-A play as ROP improved to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in league. The Highlanders need to win their final two games against West Wendover and Battle Mountain to earn the fourth and final playoff seed.
“So our backs are truly against the wall,” Conn said.
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