By Brian Besch
Lion football showed improvement in the second game of the season, but a few glaring weaknesses were too much to overcome a 44-19 loss to Needville Friday in Livingston.
Needville quarterback Diego Ochoa completed just four passes on the night, but two went for touchdowns and all were at least 20 yards. Ochoa also ran for 80 yards, while running back Da’Shawn Burton added 119 yards and three scores on just 14 carries. With 254 yards on the ground, the Blue Jays averaged over seven yards per tote.
The Lion offense showed progress, but lacked the consistency needed to remain competitive. Quarterback Jakob St. Martin ran for 94 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, while the rest of the team combined for 90 yards on 23 attempts. St. Martin threw the ball 21 times, completing 10 of those for 118 yards with an interception. An opening drive of just three plays, the Blue Jays took a 7-0 advantage. A few possessions later, Livingston had a scoring drive of their own when a Landon Leggett fumble recovery at the Needville 21 set the Lions up in good field position. A blocked extra point kept the visitors in front at 7-6.
After a few Blue Jay touchdowns, Livingston extended a second-quarter drive with a fake punt and marched 62 yards in 10 plays, taking over five minutes for a St. Martin 4-yard run. The final Livingston score would come in the second half, closing the deficit to 30-19.
“Once again, they were too much for us to handle,” Lion coach Finis Vanover said. “We had four great plays where we had them completely set up and executed perfectly, and something would go wrong. They ate us alive on our play action stuff, we couldn't hit the quick throws, they just took us to the woodshed for the majority of the contest. We had some fine possessions and upgraded ourselves, but we didn't get good enough to play those folks, making the errors that we made. We told them at halftime that it is a two-score game and we've made glaring mistakes. But, we gave up the big explosive plays on defense, and you can't do that.”
The Lion defense failed to hold up its end, unable to stop the run or pass. Statistics from Ochoa could have been much worse had Blue Jay receivers brought in passes hitting their hands. In two games now, the young Livingston secondary has been inadequate in coverage.
“We don't have any answers right now in a couple of those spots,” Vanover said of his pass defense. “It is what it is right now. We are struggling against really good talent. We can't hit the panic button and can't fold up the tents. We have to keep getting better. Palestine (next week’s opponent) is going to have some folks, but we just have to keep with it. Characters are getting tested right now. We're getting isolated out there and those guys are just shredding us. We've got to step up and make plays.”
Another area of the game damaging Livingston chances is special teams, where an extra point was blocked, kickoff returns were not fielded cleanly on multiple occasions, and the kickoff team allowed an 80-yard return for a touchdown. The one bright spot on special teams for the night was punter Nester Ramirez.
“Just atrocious – we didn't block a soul on kick return and we were just feeding them the returners like sacrificial lambs. I wouldn't catch it either. We spent more time on that in film, and even did it today. That is about want-to and heart. Right now, we're not wanting to do it too much.”