SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — Recovering turnovers throughout the evening kept the Glendale High football team in the game during its season opener against Cathedral at Moyse Field on Friday night.
But it was one of the few giveaways the Nitros committed that stood as the decisive play in their 21-10 nonleague loss, one in which they led at halftime and early in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Alex Yoon gave Glendale a burst of hope when he converted on a huge third-down-and-three play at the Nitros' own 46-yard line with a 21-yard run at the 5:05 mark of the fourth quarter and his team trailing, 14-10.
That hope was snuffed out when Yoon fumbled the ball away and the Phantoms recovered it on their own 24-yard line. Glendale would not gain another yard from scrimmage for the rest of the game and the 181 yards it did roll up on the night weren't enough to support an impressive defensive effort.
"If we can keep that ball and go down, we've got a chance late in the fourth quarter," Glendale Coach Alan Eberhart said. "It was 14-10 in the last minute of the game. We wanted to win the game. But we wanted to come out and play hard. We wanted to prove that we could be better."
The Nitros certainly improved on their last meeting with Cathedral, a 52-13 loss to open a disappointing 1-9 2009 season, keeping the Phantoms off the scoreboard until the just inside the 6:00 mark of the third quarter and recovering a total of five turnovers, including a streak of four in the Phantoms' first four possessions.
"I'm happy with the way we played defense," Eberhart said. "They got in their own way. They were a little rusty, they weren't executing and they were dropping the ball. We were frustrating them."
But from the beginning, the failure to capitalize on extra possessions and great field position hurt the Nitros.
Flushed out and backpedaling in the face of pressure, Cathedral quarterback Hayden Rettig dumped an ill-advised toss straight into the arms of oncoming Mark Attarian, who retuned it to the Glendale six-yard line with 4:07 left in the first quarter.
Four rushing attempts later, including two from within the two-yard line, Glendale had given the ball back with no points to show for it.
But under pressure once again two minutes later inside his own 10-yard line, Rettig fumbled into the grasp of Glendale's Tony Ramos, who set the Nitros up at the one.
Glendale came through this time, even after a penalty had backed it up to the six, as Yoon snuck in for a 7-0 lead with eight seconds left in the quarter.
Cathedral then marched the ball nearly 80 yards, only to see Kristaan Ivory lose a fumble on the Nitros one-yard line.
The Phantoms regrouped to score on their first drive of the second half, aided by a fluky play. Glendale's Anthony Platero had jumped a rout perfectly and had another Rettig pass all but picked off, but the ball went off his fingertips, over his head and straight to Cathedral's Domonique Scott for a 39-yard gain that set up the tying score at the 5:53 mark.
"We should intercept the ball or knock it down and instead that gives them a touchdown," Eberhart said. "It's a matter of making plays and kind of learning how to win. We have to find a way to win that game and we just couldn't. We're still trying to find ourselves."
Glendale wasn't done, getting a stop on fourth and six at its own 20 and driving 72 yards, aided by a roughing the kicker penalty, to retake the lead on a 25-yard field goal from Nick Villapando with 9:42 left in the fourth.
A 42-yard run by Cathedral's Zachary Green set up the go-ahead score for the Phantoms at the 7:32 mark.
The play on which Yoon's turnover occurred was doubly costly, as Yoon was knocked out of the game with a twisted ankle on the play and unable to return for the team's final possession, which was set up by an interception of Rettig by Alejandro Maravilla with 2:25 in the game.
"We played hard defensively and gave ourselves a chance," Eberhart said. "It was everything we wanted, we just couldn't finish it."
Cathedral's final score came with 28 seconds left.