By Graham Henderson
In its first two games this season, Mission High School is showing signs of improvement.
After being blown out in its first game by Tomales, Mission (0-2) was looking for redemption at its home opener at Kezar Stadium against visiting Fort Bragg.
Despite a 28-6 loss, the Bears were in contention until the fourth quarter, in a game that saw both teams give up considerable yardage in penalties.
“You know, we did do better than last week,” said Mission head coach Joe Albano. “[But] the penalties really pushed us back.”
After a scoreless first quarter in which both teams struggled to move the ball, Fort Bragg quarterback Brandan Freitas led the Timberwolves on an 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.
The Bears’ defense was able to force a fumble from Freitas with less than two minutes to go in the half, but the Mission offense was unable to capitalize. The drive ended with an interception thrown by Mission quarterback Davon Hargraves, who struggled with accuracy all night.
The Bears only trailed 6-0 at the half, but Fort Bragg set the pace early in the third quarter with a 72-yard touchdown run by running back Calab Cunha, who would finish with two touchdowns and a game-high 228 rushing yards.
The Bears answered immediately with a 62-yard touchdown run by running back Davonte Gaines to cut the lead to 14-6 with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter. Gaines finished the game with one touchdown and a team-high 110 yards on the ground, despite being out for part of the second half with a minor ankle injury.
Still only down by a score, the Mission defense was able to prove itself in the fourth quarter with an impressive stand on their own six yard line that keep them in the game, but the offense was unable to capitalize again, allowing two sacks and punting after five plays.
“We’re getting better week to week,” said Mission running back Laron Davis. “We just need to come straight to practice every day, work hard and go in the weight room,”
The goal line stand was the last highlight for Mission, as Fort Bragg blew the game wide open late in the fourth quarter. After scoring its third touchdown, Fort Bragg forced Mission into a three-and-out punt, then scored on the next play, on a 60-yard pass from Freitas to receiver Nick Ryken.
“We moved the ball real well,” said Fort Bragg head coach Jack Moyer. But like Mission coach Albono, Moyer was also frustrated by the penalties.
Nonetheless, Moyer was happy to be taking the three-hour bus ride home to Fort Bragg with a win.
FB: 7:19 — Cody Ryden 39-yard pass from Brandan Freitas (Conversion failed)
FB: 6:08 — Calab Cunha 72-yard run (Freitas run on conversion)
M: 5:25 — Davonte Gaines 62-yard run (Conversion failed)
FB: 5:43 — Cunha 39-yard run (Kick missed)
FB: 3:09 — Nick Ryken 60-yard pass from Freitas (Michale Mehtlan pass from Freitas on conversion)