Piner earns first win of season


Shane Riveras got a text message on Thursday from Piner High coach Matt Tomlin and at first he thought it was a joke.

Elsie Allen wide receiver Ryan Yazel tries to get around Piner defensive back William Campbell (88) as Piner defensive lineman Cash Lanning (55) pursues the runner during the third quarter Saturday. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

The one-sentence text informed the senior he was going to be the starting quarterback for the game Saturday afternoon against Elsie Allen.

When Riveras got over the shock, his first impulse was to reply that he’d never played quarterback before. Running back and wide receiver, yes. Quarterback, no.

The senior showed up for practice after school and sure enough, Tomlin wasn’t kidding.

If Riveras was nervous, he didn’t show it against winless Elsie Allen. Guiding his team to its first win of the year, 64-35, Riveras passed for two touchdowns and ran for three. He also ran in three two-point conversions.

“I was nervous after reading that text but once we started practice on Thursday, I was OK,” Riveras said. “After our walk-through Friday, I knew I could do it. My biggest concern was being able to read the defenses and it turned out I didn’t have a problem with that.”

The quarterback position opened when starter Austin (Tex) Nahmens was diagnosed with his third concussion of the season after the Montgomery game on Oct. 15.

Elsie Allen led, 21-20, early in the second quarter when Piner went on a scoring binge — three unanswered touchdowns before halftime.

Riveras hooked up twice with Israel Sanchez on scoring strikes of 21 and 39 yards. Then, 37 seconds before intermission, he ran the ball in from six yards out.

Sanchez also had a big afternoon. The senior figured in two other touchdowns. He returned a kickoff 70 yards in the first quarter and hauled in a 38-yard pass from back-up quarterback Mason McGarr in the third.

“You don’t even know how good this first win feels,” Sanchez said. “It was easy to get to the outside the way Elsie Allen’s defense was playing me and Shane laid it in my hands on both touchdowns.”

Deciding to move Riveras into the starting quarterback position wasn’t a big gamble, according to Tomlin.

“We’d run some trick plays where he’d take a screen pass and throw it downfield,” Tomlin said. “He was right on the money on those, so I saw no reason why he couldn’t do that from behind center.”

Riveras also ran the quarterback draw exceptionally well.

“It feels good to get the first win,” Tomlin said. “We played well on offense, but we’re a very bad defensive team. All year, we haven’t played well on that side of the ball.”

After yielding three touchdowns in the first half, Tomlin decided to take charge of the defense in the second half. He moved players around and called defensive signals. The Lobos scored only one touchdown in the third quarter and then got another in the game’s final minute.

“I’ve been head coach here 18 games and the fact that our defense hasn’t played well is on me,” Tomlin said.

The Prospectors are allowing an average of 46 points per game.

Elsie Allen coach Larry Arterberry said it was the same old story for his team, now 0-8 and 0-5 in league.

“The desire is there,” he said, “but their big plays killed us. We seem to play well early and then turnovers lead to big plays by our opponents. It gives a coach gray hair.”

Elsie Allen travels to Ukiah next Friday while Piner visits Cardinal Newman on the same night.