El Dorado’s 20-19 victory against La Quinta at Bradford Stadium Friday night indicates that this year’s Golden Hawk team looks a lot like last year’s--except for one intangible quality.
Carl Sweet, Golden Hawk coach, calls it character. It’s the ability to take life’s lemons and make lemonade. Last year’s team met adversity and crumpled, finishing tied for fifth place in the Empire League.
The players wearing El Dorado jerseys Friday reacted quite the opposite, to Sweet’s relief. The Golden Hawks received a rude welcome to the 1985 football season, but somehow remained undaunted.
The game started like a freezing shower for El Dorado, as it gave up two touchdowns in the first two minutes. On the first play, Golden Hawk fullback Doug Sipple fumbled on his own 25-yard line and Aztec Scott Armstrong recovered. On the next play, La Quinta quarterback Eric Zeno ran 24 yards for a touchdown.
For El Dorado, it got worse before it got better. El Dorado kept the ball securely in its possession for five more plays before the Aztecs’ excellent defensive back, Bart Recktenwald, intercepted a Dan Sutherland pass. Recktenwald ran it back 32 yards for a 13-0 lead with 9:02 left in the first quarter.
“At that point, I was looking up in the stands for my wife to get a ride home,” Sweet said. “She gave me the signal that good things were going to happen, so I stayed down there.
“It took us a while for the kids to get adjusted. It’s tough when bad things happen right away like that. You’re ready to play offense and then you’re on defense, and you’re not ready to play.
“We were down 13-0 before the seats got warm.”
The way La Quinta was going, it looked like their motto of pride, poise and perfection was about to be realized.
But El Dorado steadied itself by the end of the first quarter. A 12-play, 77-yard drive was capped by a halfback option pass from Rich Chamberlain to Rob Sporrer for 20 yards and a touchdown. Troy Dean’s kick made it 13-7.
From there, the Golden Hawks controlled the ball. The Aztecs were outgained on offense in the first half, 126-66.
The Golden Hawks took the lead with 2:14 left in the second quarter after Brett Clark recovered a fumble by Aztec running back Darrel Crain at the Aztec 20-yard line. Chamberlain subsequently rushed three yards for the touchdown and Dean’s kick made it 14-13 at halftime.
The turnovers continued to turn in the Golden Hawks’ direction as the third quarter opened with safety Rick Bowen intercepting a Zeno pass, and running it back 70 yards for a touchdown.
La Quinta managed to score once more with 7:57 left in the third quarter after a 19-yard pass to Recktenwald and a 32-yard run by Kevin Rice. Zeno rushed from the one-yard line for the touchdown, but the kick failed.
The Golden Hawks then let their nine returning defensive starters show their skills. Clark came up with a second fumble recovery after a sack of Zeno by Bruce Smith in the fourth quarter and Jeff Boucher intercepted a pass by Zeno to help stop the Aztecs.
“This was a good character builder for us,” Sweet said.