Cards roll over Grizzlies in NEA opener
Tappero scores four TDs, defense stays stout in Medical Lake's 34-7 win over Newport
By PAUL DELANEY
In Medical Lake's seemingly easy 34-7 football victory last Friday over Newport on the road in their Northeast A League opener, the Cardinals' offense was certainly in high gear.
But head coach Wes Hobbs will be the first to tell you it was a critical defensive stand which really turned the contest that saw his Cards move to 3-0 (1-0 NEA) on the season for the first time in over a decade.
“The biggest part of the game is not the score, the fact that we're 3-0; the biggest part is that we responded after they made that opening drive in the second half,” Hobbs said.
The Cards countered the 25-yard run by Braden Barranco with 8:55 remaining in the third quarter with a two-yard score from Micah Tappero with 4:21 to go in the quarter.
“Once we did that I think the tide turned,” Hobbs said. “They just played hard, the defense played better, we just overall played better.”
Medical Lake had a long drive that came up empty to open the game, but a Newport turnover when they snapped the ball over the head of the punter gave the Cards great field position deep in Grizzly territory and Tappero scored on a 1-yard run with 1:17 to play in the first quarter. After a missed kick on the point-after, ML led 6-0.
“We had a time-consuming first drive that ended with no points,” Hobbs said. “We ate up a lot of clock in that first quarter.”
The Cardinals – and Tappero – struck again with 7:57 to play in the half as the senior scored the second of his four touchdowns. Seth Hansen's PAT catch made it 14-0. The play, which Hobbs called the perfect pass, set the stage for the Cards to move to a 21-0 lead on an Adam Paulson to Steven Velasquez connection for 32 yards with 4:25 remaining in the half.
“He threw some really nice balls,” Hobbs said of Paulson. “When we caught one we were just a hair out of bounds. He (did) throw a real nice ball up the sidelines to Steven Velasquez.”
Paulson was 5-of-14 with an interception. But his misfires were very much near misses according to Hobbs. “We had a pretty good battle going with one of their corners and we went yard on him several times.” Hansen had four catches for 46 yards.
But it was the test that Newport tried to administer to Medical Lake after the break that made the difference.
Hobbs told his players Newport would make a run to test Medical Lake's resolve. “Try to see what we were made of,” Hobbs said.
“They drove the length of the field and just shoved it down our throat,” Hobbs said. “I think they were anticipating that we were just going to let them continue to do that and lay down, but we didn't.”
Wrapping up his 29 carry, 193-yard night, Tappero scored the last two touchdowns of the night, one a 2-yard run with 4:21 to go in the third, and another from 12 yards out with 5:27 remaining in the game.
Tappero is a senior who moved from halfback last season to fullback in 2012. And as such he got a big new responsibility.
Typically the fullback in the Medical Lake offense gets the most of the touches. “The fullback is easily the guy who gets the majority of the carries.”
The fullback in Hobbs' offense is like the tailback in the I-formation. “He had a good off season and really worked hard at the fullback,” Hobbs said of Tappero. “So far it's worked out really well.”
“It's been a good transition for him,” Hobbs said.
But not without some real help. “A good successful back ought to have a pretty good offensive line,” Hobbs said. “He's getting some good blocking from his offensive line and the other two backs.”
Medical Lake's defense limited Newport (0-1 NEA, 0-2 overall) to 193 total yards, 128 on the ground. The Cards intercepted Newport's Ryan Rapp three times, one each from Kasey Kelly, Velasquez and Hansen.
“It's a good feeling to be 3-0,” Hobbs said as he prepares for Friday's 7 p.m. meeting at Holliday Field with Riverside, 1-2. “We still need a make a few corrections if we're going to make a real run.”
The Rams will utilize a spread offense. “They do all that gizmo stuff from the spread sets and all that stuff,” Hobbs said. “We're going to really have to play some assignment football on defense.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.