Trojans chalk up win in season-opener

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MENDOTA – So far, the transition from the Big Northern Conference to the Three Rivers Conference can be deemed a success for the Mendota Trojans. Granted, it’s still early in the process – as early as you can get – but putting a mark in the win column is something the Trojans will cherish after many years of anguish in the Big Northern.

In its very first game in the Three Rivers, Mendota did just enough in every aspect of the game to post a 24-14 victory over Erie-Prophetstown in a cross-over game on Aug. 27 at the MHS field. Although both teams are in the Three Rivers, the game was a non-conference cross-over with Mendota being in the Mississippi Division and E-P in the Rock Division.

The Trojans put points on the board in a variety of ways as the offense, defense and special teams all held up their end of the bargain. The offense churned out 221 yards in the contest, including a big 77-yard touchdown drive late in the game to secure the victory. The defense held Erie-Prophetstown to a meager 130 yards and came away with several key interceptions, while special teams came up big in the punting game and kicked a big field goal in the second half when the game was still tight.

Mendota’s biggest play on defense came just over 30 seconds into the second half after a Trojan turnover on the kickoff had the Panthers sitting pretty just two yards from the MHS red zone. With the game tied at 7-7, Erie-Prophetstown kicked off to Mendota to start the third quarter, but as Damien Magallanes continued to fight for yardage after taking the kick, he fumbled and the Panthers’ Tyler Ballard pounced on the ball at the Trojan 22-yard line.

Looking to atone for his mistake, Magallanes wasted little time in doing so as on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage, Uzi Angulo pressured Panther quarterback Kolby Franks into throwing an interception into the hands of Magallanes, who sprinted 85 yards for a touchdown. Emilio Perez added the extra-point kick to give Mendota a 14-7 lead.

The Trojan defense forced E-P into a punt on its next offense series and Mendota had good field position to start the drive at the Panther 48. The Trojans drove to inside the E-P 10-yard line, where on fourth down, Perez booted a 24-yard field to make it a 10-point margin at the 2:19 mark of the third quarter.

The Panthers responded on their ensuing possession when they marched 60 yards in eight plays, capped off by a Franks 5-yard TD run, followed by the extra-point kick by Corey Barnes Jr., to slice the MHS lead back down to three.

But the Trojans essentially put the game on ice when their next series resulted in an 11-play, 77-yard drive ending in a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Angulo with 4:23 left to play. Perez converted the extra-point kick. Mendota’s drive used up over five minutes on the clock.

Then on the kickoff, Garret Zinke rifled a low liner that caromed off of an E-P player and into the waiting arms of Mendota’s Omar Gonzalez at the Trojan 49-yard line. Mendota’s offense was able to hold onto the ball the remainder of the game to secure the win.

The Trojans finished the game with 193 yards rushing and 28 passing. Angulo gained 62 yards on 13 carries and Magallanes had 59 yards on 16 totes. Magallanes also caught two of Ted Landgraf’s three completions for 18 yards. E-P quarterback Franks led his team in rushing with 72 yards on 12 attempts.

Franks and running back Connor Sibley got their team off to a good start after taking the game’s opening kick. Sibley ripped off a 36-yard run to the Mendota 40, and then on fourth-and-15 from the 32, Franks completed a 17-yard pass to Trevor Cobo for a first down at the Trojan 15-yard line. But Mendota’s Ryne Strouss put a halt to the drive when he picked off a Franks offering at the 9-yard line.

After a scoreless first quarter, each team tallied a touchdown in the second period. A bad snap on a Panther punt attempt resulted in Cobo being tackled at his own 26. Seven plays later, Angulo bulled his way into the end zone from 1-yard out, followed by a Perez extra-point kick to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead.

On E-P’s next possession, Perez intercepted a Franks pass at the Trojan 48, but the offense stalled and was forced to punt the ball away. Cobo gathered in the punt at the 22 and then tight-roped the sideline for 78 yards and a Panther touchdown. Barnes Jr. was successful on the extra-point kick to tie the game at 7-7.