PENDLETON — Nixyaawii’s Golden Eagles had much more on their plates than the visiting Country Christian Cougars at Sunridge Middle School Friday afternoon.
"When we got to school today, we found out we were without one of our starting linebackers (due to athletic rules), so we said OK, we’ll put in one of our backups," new Nixyaawii coach Joey Edgmand said. "But our backup couldn’t play the first two quarters because of grades. So we had to find Plan C real quick."
Edgmand did, but the young Golden Eagles squad still found themselves in a 36-14 hole at halftime despite playing up to Edgmand’s expectations.
"The first half they came out and played really good right off the bat," Edgmand said. "We had to go to a third game plan when we came in here. But the first game with a new program, it went like I expected. This Country Christian team is a great team. They’re really good and they’re really well coached."
The Golden Eagles showed some offensive fight in the second half, but ended up on the short end of a 58-22 score.
"Offensively, we’re doing OK," Edgmand said. "We’ve got to get our running backs running a little straighter and not dance around so much in the backfield.
"Our receivers are running their routes like they’re supposed to," he said.
"Our offensive line has to get a little more practice on their blocking, but they’re young. I think they did really good."
Nixyaawii quarterback Isaiah Case showed his leadership with the lone scoring drive of the second half, beginning midway through the third quarter following a Country Christian touchdown. Case hit Julian Simpson for a 26-yard completion down the right sideline to open the drive, and had 29 yards rushing before Case hit Simpson for an 11-yard touchdown with 3:53 left in the quarter.
"Isaiah, he’s the key," Edgmand said. "We’ve got a few kids who can run, and then we’ve got a big tight end who couldn’t play today. Once we get him eligible, it’s really going to help us out on our short screens. And hopefully that will free up our backs a little more."
Case finished the game with 54 yards rushing on eight carries, including a 22-yard TD run in the first quarter, and 83 yards passing. However, he was intercepted five times.
Anthony Bonifer, who had a 15-yard TD for Nixyaawii in the second quarter, finished with 47 yards rushing on 11 carries. And Simpson had four catches for 48 yards on the day.
"It’s obvious we’re going to have to do a lot of work on our defense," Edgmand said. "We’ve got a lot of young kids in there."
But Edgmand did see some positives from his defense.
"Marqus George (OL/LB) — he was all over the field today," he said. "He played his heart out. I think our whole line played awesome. Keagan Starr and Kevin Purnell — I think our linemen did a pretty decent job. They did better than what I expected them to do."
And overall, Edgmand was optimistic about his team’s performance.
"I think we’re where I expected us to be," he said. "Another week of practice, and I think they’ll do a little better the next game. This is the first game for probably half the players on the team, so I think they did OK. About what I expected.
"So we’ll go back to the practice field and work on it, and see if we can’t put a few more points on the board the next game."
"Hopefully, a little more practice, and next game (at Joseph Sept. 25) we’ll see more improvement," Edgmand said. "And that’s basically all we’re looking for. If we can get improvement out of the kids each game, I think they’ll do OK."