Life as head coach of Laguna Creek has gotten off to a great start for Ryan Nill. Coming into last Friday night’s home game against Dublin High School, the Cardinals won their first two games of the season in convincing fashion.
Laguna Creek shutout Valley 38-0, then followed up with a victory against Natomas 27-12. In each of the victories, Laguna Creek was able to establish its running game and control the line of scrimmage. Through two games, the Cardinals were averaging 346 rushing yards per game with a trio of running backs racking up yardage led by senior Tyrell Brown.
Last Friday, Brown and the Cardinals’ rushing attack would pick up right where they left off, but it was not enough to overcome the Gaels.
Down by seven with just over three minutes left, Dublin was able to score on a 49-yard touchdown run by Nick Costello and convert a two-point conversion with two minutes left to take a 22-21 lead and eventually win by the same score over Laguna Creek last Friday at Cosumnes River College.
“I thought we showed phenomenal effort and to go from the team they were last season and to take on a team that beat us 59-0 last season to this I couldn’t ask for more,” Nill said.
“Obviously we want to win the game but they worked their tails off and pushed and it showed that we are getting better and this program is completely turning around.”
Laguna Creek got the ball back, but were able to get a potential game-winning drive going and ended up throwing an interception on fourth down to end the game.
From the opening kickoff, it was clear that the Gaels could not consistently slow down Laguna Creek’s offensive line and rotating backfield.
In the first half, Laguna Creek ran for 201 yards as a team. Of those 201 yards, Brown had 172 of them on only 12 carries. Not only was Brown keeping the Cardinals alive with his ability as a runner, but he also got involved in the passing game at quarterback in the wildcat formation.
Brown threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to David Wood from 29 yards out to give the Cardinals a five-point lead in the fourth quarter after entering the quarter down by seven points.
“I tell him all the time how good he is and he competes at everything he is doing it doesn’t matter what it is,” Nill said.
“He does not know the definition of half speed and he is a guy we lean on and he is a playmaker.”
Dublin featured a quick up tempo spread offense and for the most part, the Cardinals were up to the test defensively.
Laguna Creek’s defense only gave up 15 of the 22 points overall. Dublin’s first touchdown came from a Javoni Gardere interception he returned 91 yards for a touchdown off Cardinals’ quarterback Jeff Rasmussen in the first quarter.
Dublin scored their second touchdown after a long kickoff return and personal foul penalty gave them great field positioning just before halftime.
“We know Dublin can score and throw the ball so we tried to invite the run and slow down the pass,” Nill said.
“Our kids are still learning the game of football and we are trying to increase the football IQ and that is why we have these preseason games to get ready for league.”
Although in a losing effort, Nill knows the team’s 2-1 start, and nearly 3-0 start is something to be proud of. Laguna Creek have already doubled their win total from the entirety of last season when they finished the season 1-9.
“Games like this are something we were not in last season and every week we have a different character topic and this week was desire and wanting to win the game and they showed that tonight,” Nill said.
“This result will help us down the road and will be something the guys can learn on and learn from the next time we are in this position.”
Next week, the Cardinals will have their first road game of the season and take on the only team they defeated last year in Florin.
The Panthers have struggled this season and are yet to win a game under new head coach and former Laguna Creek head coach Dan Davis.
“Next week is another opportunity to get better and if we are playing to our full potential then we can walk off the field with our heads held high,” Nill said.
“The kids have a relationship with Dan and for everything he did here for three years but we are trying to get prepared for the Florin Panthers and when we get ready for league we are ready to roll.”