Sumner coach Keith Ross had every reason to think, “I told you so,” after junior Josh Riley blocked Franklin Pierce’s punt and recovered it for the Spartans’ first touchdown.
“I called that,” Ross said. “I told them this week that we were going to stop them in three downs, block the punt and score the touchdown.”
Riley made Ross’ vision come true following the Cardinals’ three-and-out to start the game when he dived in front of Cardinals punter Saul Lok’s kick.
The ball bounced backward near the Cardinals’ end zone, and Riley came away with the score.
Riley scored three touchdowns in the Spartans’ 28-6 season-opening victory Friday night at Sunset Chev Stadium.
“As soon as I got in there, I knew (Lok) was taking a while, and I just dove for it, saw it hit my hands, and from there it was just going,” Riley said. “Everyone was getting hyped. It was awesome.”
Perhaps the biggest factor in the win was Sumner’s ability to switch its veer offense between normal and quick tempo. Following a 36-yard touchdown pass from Chase Torgison to Triston Wedington, the Spartans attacked Franklin Pierce’s defense with a fast-paced, no-huddle offense. It kept the Cardinals off-balance, fatigued and vulnerable.
During two of Sumner’s hurry-up drives, two Franklin Pierce senior starters were helped off the field. Ross said they appeared to be cramping.
“That’s our plan for the whole season,” Ross said of playing up-tempo. “We watched Oregon do it with the spread — we’re going to do it with the veer. We are smaller and more in shape, so our plan is to wear out all these bigger linemen, and as you saw, they were cramping. That’s just part of our new thing, this fast-tempo offense.”
Running backs Riley and Connor Wedington will be the featured cogs in the Sumner offense, which had to replace two 1,000-yard rushers from last season’s 11-1 team in Dejon Lynch and Brandon Tuilaepa.
“Can we replace two backs like that this year with those young backs? I don’t know. Probably not — those are two of the better backs we’ve ever had,” Ross said. “We’re confident that (Riley and Wedington) are going to be the backs for us. We were hoping we could throw a little more and kind of balance out the loss of those guys, but we’ll get better this week.”