DIXON – It took a while for Jon Schlemmer to get to the first half while addressing his Sterling squad after a 38-0 rout of Dixon on Friday night.
He actually began by looking ahead to the season finale, a showdown with Ottawa, also 4-0 in the NIB-12 West, in Sterling next Friday.
Then he commended his team on playing much better in the second half.
Come to think of it, he never directly spoke about the first half.
Who could blame him? It was the ugliest half of football I’ve seen this season. And I wasn’t alone in that opinion.
When the second half kicked off, about a quarter of the original crowd was still on hand. After Sterling scored on its first drive, another purple-clad crowd filtered out.
After a Dixon three-and-out, Sterling coughed up the ball on the second play of its next drive. About half the Sterling fans filed out, leaving a few dozen fans in the stands for the last quarter and a half.
Too bad. Those final 18 minutes might have been the most entertaining.
Dixon, down 21-0 and frantically trying to get back into the game, if only to break up the shutout, converted on fourth-and-9 on the ensuing drive.
Although, at that point the Dukes were just 1-for-3 in such scenarios. They faked a punt and failed with the game scoreless midway through the first, effectively handing the Golden Warriors their first score as they took over at the Dukes’ 19.
Capital UGH. I didn’t want to talk about the first half … but here we go. It’s a slippery slope. The Dukes, down 14-0, got an 80-yard kickoff return from Justin White to set up shop at the Sterling 10. Three plays later, they faced a fourth-and-32.
“What?!” you justifiably ask. Not a typo. Two of Dixon’s 14 penalties squandered a golden opportunity.
But then, neither team had a lot to be proud of at the half, combining for 165 yards. They combined for eight first downs and a dozen penalties.
But the difference was Sterling expected to turn it around, and did. After a first half chock full of exasperated complaints like, “We’re too good to do that,” or “We’re too smart to do that,” Schlemmer was pleased to have lots of reasons to praise his team after the game.
Here’s the catch: They don’t get a half to get warmed up next Friday. Michael Hermosillo and company will lead by multiple scores if the Sterling team that played the first 24 minutes is the one that shows up Friday.