There are good football games. There are great football games. And then there are special football games–the kind that become legendary. The Etna Lions 20-0 upset of Fall River on Friday night was that special kind of game. Fall River was undeniably the best Division-V team in the North Section. The Bulldogs were a perfect 10-0. During the regular season, Fall River averaged 47 points per game and had defeated all of the teams seeded two through five in the playoffs–Maxwell (45-3), Modoc (27-8), Chester (42-27) and Etna (47-34). At one point in the season, Etna was 2-5. The Lions didn’t secure a playoff berth until the last game, finishing the regular season at 5-5. The fifth-seeded Lions reached the NSCIF semi-final game by going to Chester and defeating the Volcanoes 19-14 in the first round.
Etna assistant coach Butch Bigham has been involved with Etna football seemingly forever, and put the win in perspective after the game.
“For what we were and for what they (Bulldogs) have been for nine or ten games, there’s no bigger win in Etna history.”
At half time the game was scoreless, thanks in large part to a very physical Lion defense. That was a victory for Etna.
“I told them (Lions) on the bus, if they (Bulldogs) can’t score, they can’t beat us. I think they took it heart,” said Etna head coach Wade Dickinson.
Despite being huge underdogs, the Lions came into the match up believing they could win.
“We felt like after our first performance we could play with these guys, and we came in confident. We changed some things on defense from the last game, and figured they might have to adjust, and then we might have to adjust during the game,” said Dickinson. “Basically we were more physical than them. I think they were shocked.”
The Bulldogs were likely even more shocked when they found themselves down 7-0.
Early in the third quarter, Etna was backed up to its own five-yard-line. The Lions didn’t move much from there and were forced to punt. Wade Thackeray unleashed about a 60-yard boomer that went over the Bulldog returner’s head, and Fall River started at its own 35-yard-line. Thackeray did a masterful job of kicking all night. Fall River moved the ball near midfield. The Bulldogs were able to move the ball, sometimes in big chunks of yardage, but each time the Etna defense would come up with big plays. Often those plays were a tackle for a loss in the Bulldog backfield. This time, it was Collin Robinson coming up with a loose ball on the Lion 48-yard-line.
Etna had a rocky start to what would be its first scoring drive, heading backwards five yards via penalty on the first play. Harrison Hogun then connected with Marquis Pitts for about 15 yards and a first down at the Fall River 42. Zac Hansen ran for eight yards, but a holding penalty erased the gain and then some. No problem. On the next play, Hansen ripped off a 32-yard run, and the Lions gained an extra 15 yards on a helmet-to-helmet contact penalty against Fall River. That gave the Lions a first down at the Bulldog eight-yard-line. Etna moved back five yards on a penalty, but Marquis Pitts went 13 yards on the next play, diving into the end zone for a 6-0 Etna lead. Rafael Greene added the PAT, making it 7-0 with 4:52 to play in the quarter.
As would be expected from the Shasta Cascade League champion Bulldogs, they responded by marching down the field on their next possession. However, once again the Etna defense came up big, with John Michael Theofanides picking off a pass at the Etna nine-yard-line. (more…)
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