EVERYTHING EVERGREENS (FOX SPORTS WAUSAU-WSAU) The toughest losses are the ones that toy with your emotions. Like Friday.
It looked like the Evergreens were going to tally a come-from-behind win over SPASH when quarterback Darren Sanchez connected with Kyle Zblewski for a 46-yard touchdown pass with 1:14 to play. All the Evergreens needed to so was to make a few defensive stops and keep SPASH off the scoreboard. It didn't happen. SPASH ran back the kickoff 60-yards after the touchdown and started with a short field. They decided against a game-tying field goal on 4th and 1, and picked up a first down with 30-seconds to play. Two plays later, SPASH took the lead for good on Keith Hoffman's 19-yard touchdown pass with 8-seconds to play. It's hard to imagine a bigger swing of emotions late in a game.
What went wrong for the Evergreens?
Blame it on the weather. Really. Friday night was a hot, humid night -- more taxing weather than either team practiced in during the pre-season. Fatigue and conditioning were factors. And the Evergreens defense got tired. It showed late in the game.
The defense was stout during the first half. But late in the game -- on the drive before SPASH took the lead for good -- the Evergreens D couldn't get off the field on 3rd-and-10 and 3rd-and-15. They gave up the long kickoff return. They struggled to cover a bubble-screen, where the defensive backs were slow to close on a receiver who had a lot of running space. A couple of runs up the middle - which the Evergreens had bottled up in the first half - gashed them for big gains down the stretch. The winning touchdown, an up route to the far sideline, was a play where the SPASH receiver was faster than the Everest defensive backs. And all of that points to a defense that was worn out by the end of the game.
The good news: conditioning improves from week 1 to week 2. When fresh, the defense was solid. Other teams will find that Everest has size and physicality, and is tough to score on. I saw enough on Friday night that I'm convinced this is a good team.