“The fact that my guys put up 20 points on a team like that is a testament to the heart that we have as a team,” Bears head coach Dave Kindley said.
Facing the top seed in the Northern Section Division 4 playoffs Friday night, the Mount Shasta Bears left everything on the field as they fought until the end in a 48-20 semifinal loss.
The East Nicolaus Spartans had not lost since a 35-28 setback against Paradise to start the season. Paradise is currently undefeated for the season and is playing for the NSCIF D3 title this week. The Spartans, last year’s NSCIF D4 champion, had not given up more than 12 points in their wins this season before Friday night's contest.
“The fact that my guys put up 20 points on a team like that is a testament to the heart that we have as a team,” Bears head coach Dave Kindley said. ”Last year, when we played these guys, we weren’t even able to finish the game. This year my guys weren’t the least bit intimidated by them.”
Despite the Spartans having 38 players suited up compared to 17 for Mount Shasta, Kindley said that “we didn’t care. They went out and fought 100 percent on every snap.”
The Spartans came out and quickly scored two touchdowns to take a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. East Nicolaus scored again with about 10 minutes left in the second quarter to take a 19-0 lead over Mount Shasta. The Spartans scored again a short time later as the Bears trailed 25-0 with about eight minutes left in the half. Mount Shasta could have easily thrown in the towel, but this group of resilient Bears continued to fight despite the odds.
The squad began to march down the field making it to the 20-yard line of the Spartans on a long pass from Cole Kindley to Gaspar Rodriguez. With about six minutes left in the half, Kayden Crisci ran the ball in from three yards out for the score, as the extra point by Rodriguez made things 25-7 in favor of the Spartans. East Nicolaus scored one more time in the half, as Mount Shasta trailed 32-7 at the half.
Trailing 45-7 in the third quarter, the Bears scored again on a short run by Crisci with about three minutes left in the third quarter to make things 45-13. Mount Shasta scored one more time in he fourth quarter when Crisci found daylight and scampered 65 yards for the touchdown with about six minutes left. The successful PAT by Rodriguez reduced the Spartans lead to 45-20. While the Bears lost, Kindley said the way his team fought made him quite proud.
“Our guys played their hearts out like always,” he said. "They gave each other and the team all they had."
Kindley said it felt good as a coach after the game knowing his team earned the respect of their opponent. “In fact, after the game their coach told me he couldn’t believe what we were able to do against them with only 17 players,” he said. “That makes me proud that my guys left that impression on the competition.“
Mount Shasta ended the season 6-6 overall. To get to the semifinals, the Bears, the No. 5 seed, upset No. 4 seed Colusa in a first round contest 29-28 the week before. The Bears tied the game with about a minute left in the contest and scored on a 2-point conversion to pull off the one point victory. East Nicolaus improved to 11-1 overall and face No. 2 seed Pierce for the NSCIF D4 title Wednesday night.
If the Spartans win they will have earned a Section title for five straight seasons. Coach Kindley commended Crisci for running “like a bulldozer” and having a strong game against a squad the caliber of the Spartans. He commended the O-line for “paying their hearts out.”
Coach Kindley said the quarterback Cole Kindley “threw the ball well and our receivers made some big plays. Anthony Pigoni made an absolutely phenomenal catch that gave us a much needed first down to keep a drive alive.”
“Every kid on this team played a role and contributed in their own way Friday night,” he added. Coach Kindley said that this was a special group of young men he coached this year. “ Any kid on this team will step up and protect their brothers at any cost.,” Coach Kindley said. “This group of guys has been battle hardened and forged into a tight knit unit. They have the mindset of team before self. They have faced bigger and faster teams every Friday night without wavering.”
He added the future is certainly bright for next season with a team that had four sophomores starters this year. Kindley said they will miss the four seniors on the squad this season. This includes three kids he coached in youth football with the Shasta Knights in Crisci, Lane Kindley, and Jackson May. “Now they’ve played their last down of high school football and they are ready to go out in the world and make an impact as men,” Coach Kindley said. "I could not be more proud of those young men or more grateful to have had the opportunity to stand beside them on the field.”