Sheffield shut out in opening loss

Sheffield’s trend of starting the season slowly is no different in 2014, as the Wolverines were shut out Saturday in their opener against visiting Ridgway, 48-0.

“It’s kind of a repeat performance of the last I don’t know how many years,” said Wolverines head coach Dave FItch, who prior to the season stressed mental toughness and starting strong. “We never seem to get off to a strong start or play to our potential in week one.”

After Wolverines quarterback Adam Higby threw an interception on the third play of their first series, Ridgway put together an eight-play, 73-yard drive; that ended with running back John Paul Cerroni punching it in on first and goal from the two-yard line.

On Sheffield’s next possession, Higby started to find his receivers, hitting Jamir Brown for a 10-yard gain and junior Logan Connelly twice – one for 10 yards and another for 26 – that put the Wolverines in Elkers’ territory. Two plays later, running back Ja’Sani Marlow would fumble at the 31-yard line.

Ridgway capitalized on the turnover by running the ball six times, opening up the field for quarterback Ben MacDonald to connect with Cody Delhunty for a 41-yard score. MacDonald continued to add to Ridgway’s lead, but this time by running the ball. MacDonald easily reached the end zone on a second and goal one yard carry with under eight minutes to go. This score was followed up with a 40-yard carry on the Elkers’ next possession.

“They beat us up pretty good up front,” said FItch. “What happened today was just a total basic fundamental breakdown.”

With less than a minute to go in the half, and on their own two-yard line, the Wolverines’ offense flashed some hope, as Higby was able to find an open Brown. He broke several tackles, before finally being brought down after stumbling around the Elkers’ 10 yard line. The 87-yard play accounted for almost half of Higby’s 201 passing yards.

“When you break away like that, you got to take it to the house,” said Fitch.

The Elkers’ didn’t wait long to add to their 28-0 lead coming into the second half. Under a minute into the third quarter, Ridgway running back Luke Pierce powered his way into the end zone for a five-yard touchdown.

Sheffield was unable to put together any offense in the second half, running the ball seven times for 37 yards, and only connecting on one of nine pass attempts.

“We’re two steps off,” said Fitch. “Some of that is basically that we haven’t had a whole lot of time. In a two-week period, when you bring a co-op together, you have to teach terminology and all of our skill set we want. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for the basic fundamentals. That’s why it takes us typically two, three, four weeks to get going.”

Fitch has hope that this year’s team will bounce back from a rough start, much like last year’s did.

“It’s just a matter of keep toughing it out mentally and physically,” said Fitch. “If that happens we have the ability to be where we were at last year. Last year’s team got mentally tougher as the weeks went on, which lead to being physically tougher. If these guys get mentally tougher of the next few weeks, their physical toughness come AML North time will be okay.”