By Acra Samuels EBS Contributor
GARDINER – The Ophir Middle School Miners six-man football team traveled to Gardiner on Sept. 12 to take on the Bruins. It was a hot, sunny day but both teams came out to play.
The Miners, coming off a loss to West Yellowstone the previous weekend, were ready for another opportunity on the field. It looked like a defensive battle in the first quarter with each team holding strong on the first two possessions. However, the quarter would end with a 6-0 Bruins lead, which began a long scoring day for Bruins’ star athlete Elijah Byrd.
The second quarter opened the scoring floodgates on both sides of the ball. Frankie Starz started it off for the Miners when he returned a kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown, followed by an Austin Samuels extra point run, pulling the Miners to within a 13-7 deficit. As the quarter progressed, a 20-yard touchdown reception by Ophir’s Nick Brester made the score 25-19 Bruins.
A 30-yard pass from Starz to Samuels brought the Miners down to the Bruins 1-yard line with 1 second left in the half. On the last play of the first half Samuels plunged in for a touchdown, to make it 37-25, Bruins.
The battle continued in the second half, but the Miners couldn’t contain the Bruins’ Byrd who scored 50 of Gardiner’s points in the game. With a final score of 56-37, the Miners were led by three eighth-graders on offense. Samuels scored three touchdowns, as well as an extra point; Brester caught two touchdown passes of 20 and 22 yards; and Starz threw for four touchdowns, while also returning a kickoff for a score. And seventh-grade all purpose back Evan Iskenderian had a very productive game both rushing and receiving.
On defense, seventh-grader Jack Lovely did an outstanding job on the edge against a Bruin team that ran the sweep often. Starting outside linebacker Samuels, and inside linebacker Starz, contributed heavily on defense, along with fellow eighth-grader Nick Wade.
A big crowd traveled with the team to Gardiner, which nearly outnumbered the home fans. The Miners were vastly improved from their opening game and have a bye week before their next matchup at Hot Springs on Friday, Sept. 25.