SIMLA — It had been more than a year since an opponent had scored against the Simla football team on the Cubs’ home field during the regular season.
Merino broke that streak in the second quarter of last Friday’s showdown with sixth-ranked Simla with a 42-yard touchdown run by Aris Shino.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, that wasn’t the only score the Rams were able to put up as Merino pulled off a 26-22 upset in Simla’s home opener.
It was a game of misfortunes for both teams, but Merino took advantage of the biggest Simla miscues to pull out the win and even the Rams season record at 1-1.
“We made a lot of mental mistakes and turnovers,” said Simla coach Shane Zimmerman as the Cubs fell to 1-1. “We gave up four big plays and they took advantage of them. There is a lot of will to win for the kids, but we need to step up and make the plays.”
While there were four big plays that help Merino pull out its first win of the season, the last two were indeed game killers. Not only that, but they help negate a splendid night carrying the ball by Simla’s Damian Bell who rushed for 185 yards on 33 carries.
Simla led 22-14 following a four-yard touchdown run by Bell with 6:34 left in the game. But then disaster began to take place for the Cubs after Merino took the ensuing kickoff at it’s own 31.
On the first play Shino, the Rams quarterback, was sacked for a two-yard loss by the Cubs Jason George. But on the next play, Shino connected with Josh Baker for a 71-yard score cutting the margin to 22-20 with 5:38 remaining. However, the try for a two-point conversion via a run failed.
There was perhaps a sigh on the sidelines as Simla would have an opportunity to try and run out the clock on its following possession.
Two plays into Simla’s attack, the Cubs once again fumbled the ball away. It was picked up by Merino’s Leon Johnson and carried down to the Cubs 1-yard line. On the next play, Shino went over for what would prove to be the winning score with 4:05 remaining. Again the try for point failed, but the Rams had secured the 26-22 advantage.
Simla took the ball at its 33 on the kickoff and managed to drive to the Merino 24 with just more than 11 seconds left to play.
On the next snap, Merino was called for pass interference at the Simla 1-yard line giving the Cubs one last attempt at the Merino 12-yard line with a scant five seconds left. However, the pass attempt for the win by Cody Norris fell incomplete and Merino had the win.
“We played hard, we just couldn’t keep it going and turnovers certainly hurt us,” said Norris, who ran for 32-yards and passed for an additional 50. “We needed to come out with more tenacity. I think we’ll find it, but tonight, it just wasn’t there when we needed it.”
Shino, was relieved, as was Merino head coach Marlan Tramp.
“We worked hard, but this was an interesting game,” said Shino, who accounted for three Rams touchdowns on runs of 42, 22 and the 1-yard game winner. “We had hard blocking up front and we made the tackles when we really needed them. It was a good win, especially against a team that doesn`t give up to much on their home field.”
“It was back and fourth and we were strong when we needed to be,” said Tramp. “It’s early in the season and we still made a lot of mistakes. But we’re going to get things going and work from the ground up. It was good to rebound from last weeks loss (47-28 to Sargent).”
Simla got the game started on the right track. The Cubs took the opening kickoff and drove 65-yards for their first score, a 4-yard run by Kade Pyatt. Merino would rebound and go ahead 14-6 at the half following Shino’s 42- and 22-yard runs.
Simla would tie the game on a 20-yard run by Aaron Thieman with 6:05 left in the third quarter, then go ahead in the fourth on Bell’s touchdown.
“We came out and fought hard, but the mistakes certainly didn’t do us any good,” Pyatt said. “The key is to have the mental edge and we just didn’t have it when it counted. We had the lead and couldn’t let up, but it didn’t come out the way we wanted. It was a hard loss at home.”