Momentum. In baseball, it’s said that it’s the next day’s pitcher.
In high school football, momentum takes all shapes – a long run from scrimmage, an interception – or four by safety Jarius Mast – or a big defensive stand. Foothill got all of those and wrestled momentum away from Enterprise in the second half to hold on for a 28-15 win Friday at Enterprise Community Stadium. The win moves the Cougars to 3-0 in anticipation of their showdown next Friday with 2-1 Shasta.
“We did some things really really well. We had some great drives and there were times I thought we were going to put the game away, and then our drive would stall in the red zone,” Cougars coach Joey Brown said. “The momentum swings were pretty impressive. Even though we were still up, you never felt like you had a comfortable lead. Especially when they have guys over there with playmaker ability.”
Foothill sophomore quarterback Davis Smith opened the momentum with two huge runs on the Cougars’ opening offensive series. He scampered for 43 yards on the third play of the series and capped the six-play, 91-yard scoring drive with a 34-yard run to put Foothill up 7-0 early.
Enterprise, which was humbled a week earlier in its River Bowl loss, showed heart and scored on a 1-yard jump pass from Zach McNeil to Jahari Johnson toward the end of the first quarter.
“Our guys are believing,” Enterprise coach Chris Combs said. “We’re really young, we have 12 seniors, and these guys are figuring out varsity football at a rapid pace.”
Foothill answered near the end of the half as Caiden Williford used a second effort to cross the goal line and put the visitor’s up 14-7 at intermission.
The Cougars took the first possession of the half and looked to seize momentum with an uptempo attack. Behind the running of Cooper Laloli, Foothill pounded the rock on all six plays of the drive. Laloli ran for 45 of the drive’s 60 yards on five carries, setting the table for Waylon Bell’s 15-yard scoring run.
Laloli would run for 192 yards on 30 carries, setting the table for Bell and Williford’s TDs before finding pay dirt later in the fourth quarter.
“I think in any offense, you’ve got to have that base running attack to lean on,” Laloli said. “And if you can get it going and pound it down someone’s throat it sets you up for everything else.”
The long-haired senior didn’t mind spreading the wealth with guys like Smith (10 carries for 110 yards and a score), Bell (one carry and a TD) and Williford (five carries for 25 and a touchdown).
“The more people you have running the ball, the more athletes you have involved, the easier things are,” he said.
Brown concurred saying it was a tribute to the offensive line.
“It’s nice to be able to lean on the big guys like Jack Maready and Lyndell Martin,” he said. “In our system when guys load the box we have to throw to get them out of the box and our guys were able to run with a loaded box tonight.”
Part of the reason Enterprise kept stacking the box was Davis’ inaccuracy on the night, completing one pass for 13 yards while also throwing a pick.
“Davis is a sophomore who joins in on the rushing attack. As he continues to grow it’s only going to help us more in our run game,” Brown said.
Up 21-7, the Cougars twice drove into Enterprise territory, but were unable to come away with points giving the ball back once on downs, while Johnson swung the momentum in Enterprise’s favor with an interception on the goal line.
Three plays later, McNeil hit Johnson in stride on a slant route that the speedster took 80 yards for a score that cut the Cougars’ lead to 21-15 after the two-point conversion.
“They were bracketing him (Johnson) almost all night and we knew we were going to get the quick slant and could we hold it long enough to get behind the inside linebacker,” Combs said. “And when he caught it, it was a great ball by Zach and he didn’t have to break stride and that allowed him to keep his speed.”
But the Hornets could seize on the momentum after Foothill went three-and-out on its ensuing possession.
Mistakes hurt Enterprise on two successive possessions as a bad snap sailed over McNeil’s head on the first drive and, after forcing Foothill to punt, a block in the back negated a big return by Demarreya Lewis-Cooper deep into Cougars’ territory.
“Penalties and things like a snap over the quarterback’s head that gets us behind the sticks,” Combs said. “They’re a good defensive team and you can’t do that. The times we stayed ahead of the sticks, were the times we were able to sustain some drives and even if we didn’t capitalize on them, we could go eight plays, punt and flip the field.”
After the penalty on the punt brought the Hornets back to their 13 yard line, Mast, intercepted his third McNeil pass of the night, setting the Cougars up on the Enterprise 26 yard line. Three plays later – all Laloli runs – the Cougars would punch it in on a 3-yard run to go up 28-15 halfway through the fourth.
“Momentum is that universal football rule,” Laloli said.
Mast would hold the momentum for the Cougars on the 10th play of the ensuing Enterprise drive as he snagged a McNeil pass on first-and-19 after a holding call on the previous play back the Hornets to the Foothill 34.
“In junior football, I’ve had games like that but in varsity it’s a whole different ball game,” Mast said. “It feels good to do what we worked on in practice and it set me up for success.
“It’s a great feeling, I know, because I was down some too. But getting the interception, just gets you and the rest of the team pumped.”
Eli Cortinas had a bounce-back game for Enterprise, rushing for 134 yards on 20 carries one week after Shasta held him to two yards on seven carries. McNeil was 8-of-26 for 147 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
The Hornets fall to 1-2 with the loss host Red Bluff (1-2) next week, while Foothill (3-0) hosts Shasta (2-1) at Bill Johnson Community Stadium.
“Shasta is a two-point conversion away from being 3-0 against a very good West Valley team,” Brown said. “This is a championship-level game. We’re going to get their best and I hope we bring our best and it’s going to start on Monday.”