When I think of eight-man football I think of smaller — smaller roster, smaller field, smaller program.
When Ty Evenich thinks of eight-man football, I’m guessing he thinks big. Big numbers, big holes, big, wide-open spaces to dart into for even bigger gains.
Evenich, the scrappy senior who carried the Tomales High School Braves in their first contest of eight-man football against the more experienced Mendocino High School Cardinals Saturday afternoon, was nothing if not big for the Braves, piling up 210 all-purpose yards, including 191 rushing yards on 14 carries. The Braves bested Mendocino 46-16 on the shortened, 80-yard field.
“The field, being smaller, was a big difference,” Evenich said. “It’s kind of hard to get used to. But there’s more space on the field to run. Being a running back, it’s nice to have more room to run.”
And run they did.
The Braves got on the board first with a 10-play march down the field that was highlighted by Evenich’s finishing 25-yard scamper for six with about six minutes remaining in the quarter.
On the next series, Mendocino couldn’t get out of the starting blocks, eventually fumbling the ball where it was recovered on the 1-yard line by Tomales. Quarterback Jonny Barajas ran it in for a touchdown on the next play and Evenich followed with a successful 2-point conversion.
Tomales was up 14-0 when Cardinals quarterback Colton Tavares lost the handle and Tomales’s Jake Fernandes picked up the loose ball and carried it about 17 yards for the touchdown. Barajas failed to complete the 2-point conversion, so the Braves had to settle for a 20-0 advantage with a little more than two minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Braves were in control all afternoon, taking a 26-0 lead before the Cardinals’ Tavares punched into the end zone on a 1-yard run, finally getting on the board four minutes into the second quarter.
It was followed by a 2-point conversion from Thae Shandel, a kid that, for all of the Braves’ dominance, they had trouble bringing down.
“Tackling him was good practice,” first-year Braves coach Dominic Sacheli said. “I don’t think there’s another player the size of that kid.”
Both teams started with spartan rosters and Evenich, among others, paid the price. Twice he came out of the game with cramps.
A worn-out Mendocino squad squandered fantastic field position gained on a pass to Jackson Kenton-Braden in the third quarter after a successful march to the Braves’ 1-yard line. Two false start calls on successive plays backed the Cardinals up to the 11-yard line and they could not bang it in after Evenich made an athletic tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Sacheli praised his team for grabbing the first win of the season but said the outing pointed out some areas where the Braves can improve, namely conditioning and defending against the option.
“I didn’t think we played that great against the option and I know we have got some good option teams in league,” he said.
Evenich, who played nearly every play of the game, said the Braves need to get focused on being fitter as the season wears on and “have to get more used to the field.”
Even though it was their first game in the new eight-man era, the Braves looked plenty used to the field and plenty comfortable in the win.