CORONA – When Lake Arthur’s Saul De La Cruz took the opening kickoff three yards deep in the Panther endzone, then promptly ran 80 yards the other direction for a score, it looked like it would be a short night for the Corona Cardinals, Sept. 18.
It seemed even more likely three Lake Arthur scores later, but Corona finally got a touchdown from Travis Lucero on a 32-yard run with 3:10 left in the first quarter, and the Cardinals were able to force the Panthers to play a full game in a 95-47 loss.
Yeah, Lake Arthur scored a ton of points and almost ended the game early twice but for a pair of missed extra point kicks, but Corona head coach Matt Lovato said his team showed they’re coming around to figuring out how to play hard-tackling football.
“They’re starting to play football now. When they played their first game against Vaughn, everyone was nervous. For some of them, it was their first ever football game,” Lovato said. “Here tonight it was a totally different ball game.”
While the Cardinals (0-2) may have come up with some big hits – including a pancake hit by Damien Mulnix that put Darin Jackson on the sideline for a couple of plays – but there were many more missed tackles that allowed Lake Arthur (2-1) to rack up 14 touchdowns on the night.
“We’d been working on form tackling and getting our blocks, that’s what really killed us on our last game,” Lovato said. “Our biggest deal is they’ve all played basketball for so long. They’re not used to the contact, but they’re getting it now.”
Corona actually had more rushing yards than the Panthers, 292 to 205.
That included a particularly thrilling run by Connor Cox in the second quarter in which he dragged two Lake Arthur defenders before shedding them and running 35 yards for the score.
But it was in passing that Lake Arthur shone. Quarterback Luis Tarango was 21-for-29 with 353 yards in the air and six touchdowns. The Cardinals had just 33 yards passing.
Turnovers didn’t help either, as Corona lost the ball three times, including one in which Tarango simply ripped the ball out of Sam Brown’s hands and took the ball the other way 31 yards for a score.
Still, playing a full game in front of an appreciative home crowd was exhilarating for the Cardinals. They have only one more home date, a District 2 matchup with Reserve Oct. 2. Next week they’re at Roy.