TOUCHET - It was Touchet's Homecoming, but it wasn't the Indians' day to win in the 1B Southeast 8 opener against St. John-Endicott on a balmy Friday afternoon.
The Indians (4-1) fell 36-18 in front of the enthusiastic crowd to the Eagles (3-1).
"It was a good game," said Indians coach Gary Dorman. "The Eagles did a good job. St. John-Endicott is a very well-coached, physical group of kids. They get out there and we'd better get ready. They showed us a little about hitting and the physical part of the game."
At least four players left the game with injuries, although none appeared serious.
The Eagles put up 308 rush yards in their ground-happy win.
"That's football," said St. John-Endicott coach Bob Clements. "They're going to be sore tomorrow. They come in and work and have fun. They're blocking hard out there."
Touchet had 173 rushing yards and outpassed the Eagles 154 yards to 97.
It looked like Touchet drew first blood in the battle with a 21-yard pass from quarterback Jake Hodnefield to Octavio Preciado, but the score was negated on a holding call that set the Indians back 10 yards.
Precadio left early in the second quarter with an injury. He was helped off the sidelines by his parents and a medic.
"We could see that big hit coming," Dorman said of the slam Precadio took near his own sideline. "We just couldn't stop the hit."
Just three minutes later, the Eagles got possession at Touchet's 35. After three plays, St. John-Endicott's quarterback Sam Raynor handed off to Cole McCanna for a 31-yard run, lighting up the board late in the first quarter with a 6-0 lead. The 2-point conversion failed.
The second quarter was more tug-of-war between the two teams, while Touchet fought to catch up and moved the ball through the air.
Late in the second, the Indians struck pay dirt despite a nearly fumbled-away ball at the Eagles' 43.
Hodnefield handed off to Matt Kates, who put in a 44-yard run to tie the game with just under five minutes left in the half.
The Eagles answered.
Hodnefield was intercepted at St. John's 45, and from there it took the Eagles less than a minute to amass two first downs and a fumble - which was recovered by Bryce Bennett in the end zone.
Raynor ran the ball for two, putting the Eagles up 14-6 going into the half.
The Indians opened the third quarter with Hodnefield taking the 50-yard kickoff for a 90-yard touchdown.
Touchet missed the 2-point conversion and the Indians still trailed, 14-12, and it was the closest it would get.
Backup Indian's QB Kates replaced Hodnefield at the half, while Hodnefield moved to receiver, and a few minutes after the long return threw an interception at St. John-Endicott's 42.
On the next play, the Eagles' Raynor handed off to Lee Parrill, who ran it 60 yards for the score. Raynor then scampered in for 2 and a 24-12 lead.
The Indians made it to the Eagles' 12 with five minutes left in the quarter, but were unable to advance on four plays, and the Eagles regained possession for most of the rest of the quarter.
The Indians opened the fourth quarter with another score, when Kates handed off to Hodnefield for a 1-yard run after a 66-yard drive, with some assistance by several Eagles penalties. Nate Ortiz ran the ball for two, moving the Indians within a single touchdown of the Eagles.
Kates left, briefly, a few plays later with a stinger to his right wrist.
The Indians held the Eagles through the next series, not allowing them closer than Touchet's 21 before a turnover on downs.
Touchet then put up two first downs and proceeded to the Eagles' 49.
But QB Hodnefield, in for Kates, was intercepted with 4:58 to play.
St. John-Endicott's McCanna, already with one touchdown on the day, grabbed the ball quickly at his own 36 for a 64-yard touchdown run.
Another interception, this time a pickoff of Kates just a minute after Hodnefield's, led to another McCanna score. The fleet McCanna took control at the Eagles' 36 again, and again moved it up for a 64-yard touchdown run and the final points on the board.
"They are a physical ball club," Dorman said. "We'll regroup next week. We had a couple of players out due to injury and hopefully they'll be back. That will help us move the depth up."
Starter Vincent Flores, a favorite target of Hodenfield's during last week's rout of Sunnyside Christian, is likely gone for the season after an injury Wednesday, Dorman said.
He expects all the players knocked around in Friday's loss to be ready for next week's game against Colton.
"They're a different kind of team," he said. "They're big on passing and finessing the ball. They're not as physical."
The Colton road game will also be free of Homecoming distractions, Dorman said.
The weather should also be more seasonable. Friday afternoon's game was played in full sun and the field hit about 90 degrees.
"Everybody's dealing with it, so that's not something I can pinpoint," Dorman said of the heat's effects on his team. "But it's not good on anybody. That's when kids get hurt.
With the Homecoming loss behind them, Dorman is looking forward to better things.
"We're going to regroup, get a little better, keep balancing positions and come back next week."
St. John-Endicott 36, Touchet 18
St. John-Endicott 6 8 8 12 - 36
Touchet 0 6 6 6 - 18
St. John - McCanna 31 run (pass fail).
Touchet - Kates 44 pass from Hodnefield (pass fail).
St. John - Bennett 1 run (Raynor run).
Touchet - Hodnefield 90 kickoff return (pass fail).
St. John - Parrill 60 run (Raynor run).
Touchet - Hodnefield 1 run (Ortiz run).
St. John - McCanna 64 run (pass fail).
St. John - McCanna 64-yard run (pass fail).
St. John-Endicott Touchet
First Downs 13 16
Rushes-Yards 27-308 33-173
Passing Yards 107 154
Passes (Att-Comp-Int) 7-16-1 10-27-3
Punts 3-124 3-121
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 4-1
Penalties-Yards 10-96 5-40
RUSHING - St. John: McCanna 15-278 3 TD, Harrison 1-10, Benett 1-2, S. Raynor 5-18, Davis 6-14. Tou: Preciado 9-25, Hodnefield 12-89 1 TD, Ochoa 6-12, Kates 3-38, Artinas 2-3, Velasuez 2-11.
PASSING - St. John: S. Raynor 7-97, Parrill 1-10. Tou: Hodnefield 5-95 1 TD, Kates 5-59.
RECEIVING - St. John: Davis 2-17, E. Raynor 2-45, McCanna 3-35. Tou: Kates 2-75 1 TD, Huesby 2-15, Preciado 1-1, Ochoa 2-34, Hodnefield 3-23.