By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Healdsburg’s young hounds already play like old dogs — they don’t like losing.
So finishing on the short end of an exciting home opener is another opportunity to improve, difficult as the 20-14 loss to Del Norte felt Friday night.
“It’s huge to tighten up on our mistakes and just build on each week,” said Jacob Sloma, a defensive anchor with two sacks and a fumble recovery to keep Healdsburg close.
Helping power a stronger second-half offense was back Jared Walker, one of only two returning starters. Also a top tackler, Walker said the Greyhounds played with more purpose the final two periods.
“We just snapped and buckled down,” he said. “This was our first home game of the year and we wanted it bad.”
Del Norte was hungry for its first win of the season. Running an option that had Healdsburg on its heels the first half, the Warriors took a one-touchdown lead they would not relinquish.
“Healdsburg is a tough place to play. They’re a well-coached team,” said Del Norte coach Ray Rook. “We believe running wins football games. We’re strong up front. That’s been our strength.”
Healdsburg’s run defense was more effective in the second half. But a pair of fumbles kept the Greyhounds’ offense on the sidelines much of the third quarter.
The second turnover set up Del Norte on a short field and the Warriors struck quickly to go up 14-0 on a 32-yard scoring pass from Dylan Pease to Chad Bell.
The game was hitting a higher gear. The Del Norte score would be the first of four consecutive touchdowns.
Just two plays and 58 seconds later, Healdsburg was on the scoreboard. Walker hit a hole hard and bolted up the middle of the field for a 67-yard scoring run.
Answering with yet another long drive, Del Norte was back in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. Workhorse Jackson Evans scored from 10 yards out, having carried on more than half of the drive’s nine plays.
Led by first-year starting quarterback Scott Reynolds, the Greyhounds showed plenty of bite. Four consecutive Walker carries were followed by a Reynolds 23-yard scoring strike to Tanner Cristando.
“You can teach X’s and O’s, but there is a toughness to this team that you can’t teach. They have no back down, and like to play aggressive football,” first- year Healdsburg coach Todd Beth said.
A score and extra point separated Healdsburg from victory.
The defense did its job, holding Del Norte to one first down on the Warriors’ final three times with the ball.
After forcing a punt following its last timeout, Healdsburg had some two minutes to find a way to win.
The big play in a 50-yard drive was Reynolds connecting with Walker for about half of those yards.
After a scramble and then a spike to stop the clock, Reynolds tossed what appeared to be a good ball — until Tacheenee Shorty leaped, tipped the football, and came down with a game-ending interception.
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or email@example.com.