ELDON, Mo. — It was a tale of two halves Oct. 4 for the California Pintos' defense during the football team's 44-36 loss to the Eldon Mustangs. The Pintos (1-5) gave up 36 points in the first half to the Mustangs (1-5), but only eight points after the halftime break.
Head coach Derek Scroggins said the team did not make adjustments on defense at halftime, but rather the players started believing in what they could do in the second half.
"They started to execute," Scroggins said. "In the first half, we gave up 36 points. In the second half, we gave up eight. We didn't have to make our defensive adjustments because we made all of those during the week in practice. We just did not execute."
Even though the team fell short in the comeback, Scroggins said it shows they have fighters on the team.
"We can execute when we believe and play as a team, and that is what we showed in the second half," Scroggins said.
The Mustangs struck first, as they scored on a 46-yard touchdown run and converted the two point attempt to take a 8-0 lead with 10:14 in the first quarter. Eldon added to its lead on a short touchdown run and another successful two-point attempt to make it 16-0 near the end of the first quarter.
California would get a big play of its own right before the end of the quarter — a quick pass from Calen Kruger to Dawson Gump went from the Pintos 31-yard line to Eldon's 10-yard line as Gump ran down the Pintos' sideline. At the start of the second quarter, Kruger found Clayton Winkler in the end zone to get the Pintos on the board with a short touchdown pass. The Pintos would then convert a two-point attempt to make it a 16-8 game with 11:34 to go in the second quarter.
Eldon answered with another quick touchdown to make it 22-8 on a long touchdown pass, but the Pintos were able to stop Eldon on the two-point attempt.
Both teams traded touchdowns as California answered right back on its next possession. The Pintos scored on a short touchdown run by Logan Parish and the Pintos converted another two-point attempt thanks to a run by Drake Schlup to make it 22-16 game with 6:39 left in the first half.
Again, the Mustangs answered with another touchdown to make it 28-16 after the Pintos stopped their two-point attempt with 3:17 to go in the half. On the ensuing kickoff, Eldon went for an onside kick and were able to recover it, and then scored once again to make it 36-16. The Pintos were able to get one last drive and started to move down the field, but the Pintos turned the ball over right before halftime as Kruger lost a fumble for the Pintos. California's defense kept the score the same heading into halftime.
Scroggins said the fumble did not affect the team at all and that the team had planned for the onside kick.
"The onside kick, we had planned for and we were prepared for and were somewhat expecting. It was unfortunate that we did not get it," Scroggins said.
In the third quarter, the Pintos came out and scored quickly to cut Eldon's lead down to 36-22 on a touchdown run by Kruger to make it 36-22 with 10:46 to go in the quarter, but the team could not convert its two-point attempt.
The Pintos' defense was able to force Eldon to punt the ball for the first time in the game during the third quarter, and California cut the lead down to eight points after another touchdown by Kruger to make 36-28 with 7:26 left in the quarter, with the Pintos again failing to convert on the two-point attempt after the score.
Eldon scored its last touchdown of the game near the end of the third quarter to make it a 44-28 game. Late in the third quarter, it looked like the Pintos would answer back as they got the ball inside Eldon's 20-yard line, but they were unable to convert on a fourth down and four and turned the ball over on downs.
In the fourth quarter, Eldon began to take time off the clock as the team moved down its side of the field. However, California would force a fumble, and Emanuel Isidro recovered the ball on Eldon's side of the 50-yard line. On the Pintos' possession, Kruger completed a long pass to Dawson Gump to get the ball near Eldon's 10-yard line. The Pintos finally took advantage of the turnover as Kruger scored his third rushing touchdown of the game to make it 44-36 following a successful two-point attempt, with 7:20 left to play.
California forced a punt on Eldon's next possession, and a return by Clayton Winkler gave the Pintos good field position at Eldon's 30-yard line with around five minutes to go. But the Pintos were unable to advance the ball against Eldon's defense and turned the ball over on downs after a fourth down and 15 pass from Kruger went out of bounds near the Mustang's side line. Eldon was then able to run out the clock to secure the win as the Pintos' defense was unable to force another punt.
The Pintos' next game at home is against the Hallsville Indians (4-2) at 7 p.m. Oct. 11. The Indians are coming off a 35-0 loss to Blair Oaks.