SENECA – The Seneca offense got off to a great start in its first game since graduating over 94 percent of its offense from a nine-win team.
The great start lasted for all of one play.
After junior Casey Pifer broke off a 24-yard run on Seneca’s first offensive play of 2014, the Fighting Irish did not gain another first down until more than 6 minutes had passed in the third quarter. They finished with five first downs and 136 total yards. They still defeated Dwight, 14-7, thanks largely to their second-biggest offensive gain of the night – a 16-yard pass from Arik Applebee to Tyler McKinney on a late fake field goal.
The effort could be seen as the work of a team that will struggle to score points all season, or as an expected hiccup for a team debuting 10 new first-time starters. Pifer believes it is the latter.
“Just consistency from the line – everyone, actually. People getting tired – you gotta play through that,” Pifer said when asked what was missing Friday. “We will [improve]. That’s what practice is for.”
Seneca was outgained, 176-136, by the Trojans, who totaled 13 first downs. A number of key plays, with the fake field goal touchdown the most prominent, allowed Seneca to win anyway. Two Dwight punts actually cost the Trojans yardage – one was punted into the upman, and the punter whiffed on the other. Interceptions by Baley Lejawa and Zach Russell also had an effect.
The Irish did not play a flawless game, either – they lost a fumble and also had a bizarre turnover on downs where they lined up to go for it on fourth-and-2 from their own 28 and had Russell get tackled in the backfield when he did not appear to be expecting the snap – but they made fewer major mistakes than Dwight. That helped keep their yardage deficit surmountable.
“We’re gonna have to win ugly. We don’t have the thoroughbreds to run up and down the field like we did before,” Seneca coach Ted O’Boyle said. “We got some big guys up front, and coach [Terry] Maxwell’s a premier line coach in high school, and we’ll shore up all the things we need to in our line. We’re gonna have to be three, four yards and then try to hit a big play.”
If Friday is any indication, Pifer is going to be a focal point in Seneca’s offense. He more than doubled his 48-yard varsity output from 2013 against Dwight, rushing 13 times for 98 yards. Nobody else received more than five carries for the Irish, and they attempted just nine passes, completing three.
“A little nervous, you know, coming after last year and like those great [backs] – Bo Taylor and Tommy [Lovett],” Pifer said. “Just do whatever I had to do to help my team win, you know, start what we did last year.”