Hulbert falls in first home game

Ronan Khalsa | Daily Press

Hulbert quarterback Walker Eaton tries to avoid a Gore defender while looking for an open receiver Friday night in Hulbert.

HULBERT — The Hulbert Riders football team fell to 0-4 in its home opener at Rider Field Friday night. The now 6-0 Gore Pirates were too sneaky as quarterback Weston Shanks ran for four touchdowns in a game that saw the visitors win, 49-6.

Hulbert did not cross the 34-yard line until 36 seconds remained in the first quarter. At the half the score was 35-0. The Riders did adjust their defensive front, however, limiting the damage.

“We started out with a four-man front because they like to run and we thought we’d do good,” Hulbert head coach Scott Sapulpa said. “But actually, our three-man front did better. We just changed it up a little bit and the boys did a good job.”

And that carried over to the second half where the game saw more physicality on both sides of the ball rather than seeing the Hulbert offensive and defensive lines completely discredited and picked apart.

Although Gore only completed two passes for the game, each came at key points to create first downs. Hulbert was 13-24 in the air for 109 yards while Gore was 2-6 for 31. The difference came on the ground as the Pirates outrushed the Riders 260-21.

Additionally, Gore took better care of the ball not committing a turnover to Hulbert’s three. Those three being a fumble and two interceptions early in the game. Hulbert also was forced to punt five times which saw them struggle to flip the field as the average distance was just under 20 yards. Gore did not boot the ball to the Riders.

“Turnovers again, got us,” Sapulpa said. “Gore’s a good team and we made the turnovers. We just need to get more reps in, more practice in. It’s nice to be able to get a week of practice.”

That week of practice is coming off a three-week layoff due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) among the team. Sapulpa doesn’t use it as an excuse saying his team just needs to play better.

A bright spot for Hulbert was the play of senior Jacob Beall, by far the most physically intimidating Rider. He calls both the offensive and defensive plays all while sporting a pink cast on his left hand to protect a fractured thumb. He accounted for 54 yards, 42 percent, of offense and 9.5 tackles, 39 percent of defensive stops.

“We call him ‘Sarge.’ He’s the leader of the team,” Sapulpa said. “I love that boy. They cut [his cast] down a little bit earlier this week so he had more flexibility. He’s playing hard and making it work.”

Beall said he works to hype up the team, keep a positive attitude and ensure everyone plays all four quarters.

Sticking around on a brisk 43-degree night paid off for fans and Rider players alike as junior quarterback Walker Eaton, in his first start, connected with classmate Aiden Sanchez for a 45-yard touchdown with 1:10 left to play. Although the point after attempt was blocked by a mirage of four Pirates, it was a step in the right direction.

“Our fans need it,” Sapulpa said of the score. “We have been trying to call that play. We got a new quarterback and he’s still learning the plays so at halftime I said ‘look he’ll be wide open if you just step one, two and throw it.’ He was open most of the night we just didn’t throw to him. [Eaton’s] learning right now he’ll be back next year.”

For now, Sapulpa and his team are focused on building off momentum. On Friday night they travel to Warner, which narrowly lost to Gore 7-6 earlier this season, and is coming off a bye week.

“Anything positive, we just build off it,” Sapulpa said. “Preach it to the boys and keep on grinding. That’s all there is to it.”

“If we just carry it into next week and put everything in, if we get our offense rolling, I think we can win some games,” Beall said.

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