Harrison High School football team’s first two drives of the season went for -32 yards.
That virtually summed up the Panthers’ night against Widefield at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 26.
Widefield shut out Harrison 26-0 in the season opener for both teams.
After the contest, Harrison coach Rob Leboeuf told his team “We gotta get better.”
“We had to get pretty close to playing mistake-free with assignments and protecting the football,” Leboeuf said. “We didn’t do that. We had 10 penalties in the first half.”
The Panthers’ 10 penalties cost them 33 yards and more in recalled plays. Harrison ended the first quarter with more penalty yards (17) than yards from scrimmage (-12).
“Those penalties either put us in a situation that extended drives for [Widefield] or put us in a situation where we had to get 20 yards for a first down,” Leboeuf said.
On the Panthers’ third drive of the first half, while trailing the Gladiators 7-0, Harrison had a 1st and 10 eventually become 1st and 40 after a bevy of penalties.
The 12-play,21-yard drive ate 8:23 off the clock but ended in a punt.
Widefield entered halftime with a 19-0 lead over Harrison and had three receiving touchdowns in the first half.
Leboeuf said he expected the Panthers to have some rust to start the year, but felt his squad was “a little cocky” in the opener.
“We had a good summer and competed well against everybody in the scrimmage jamboree that we had and we felt good coming out of that,” Leboeuf said. “But I feel like we rested on that and got complacent with that instead of working to get better throughout the week. Yeah we have some injuries and other guys out… Isaiah Abeyta with COVID. Having an all-conference receiver be out of line up for a while is tough. … We have to get them in athlete mode.”
Players did show flashes of brilliance in the second half.
Colton Clark started the third with an interception and, after Jordan-David Voss broke past Widefield’s D-line to force a bad pass, TJ Washington nabbed the Panthers’ second pick to stall the Gladiators’ drive.
Both possessions resulted in Harrison getting the ball in Widefield territory, but also ended in turnover on downs.
“We have to make sure we’re getting more quality repetitions in practice,” Leboeuf said. “I feel like sometimes our guys think it’s just going through the motions. But they have to approach every rep like it’s the last of their career. That way we take advantage of some of those scoring opportunities.”
Leboeuf felt Carlos Preciado showed that hustled and grit throughout the contest.
The junior ended the night with a pair of receptions for 36 yards and 18 carries for 78 yards.
Preciado would have had well over 100 rushing yards if not for Panther penalties erasing some of his runs. But Preciado said he also had areas to clean up in his game and praised Harrison’s offensive line for their work.
“The O-line really helped open up some holes and helped create some good looks for me,” he said.
Less than two years ago, Preciado was a freshman stud earning reps on varsity. Now, he’s one of the veterans on the team.
Preciado said he’s still learning to navigate this role, but plans to be an extension of his coaches for his teammates who need that extra push on the field.
“I’m going to get on them how a coach would,” Preciado said. “But we’re on the field together. I want to help them improve, so I’ll have to find the perfect blend to help get my teammates where they need to be.”
The Panthers head north on Sept. 3 to face Class 2A’s preseason No. 3-ranked Classical Academy (1-0).
TCA opened the year against Eaton on Aug. 26 with a 19-16 victory on the road. The Titans defeated the Panthers 49-0 in their tilt last season.