Huskies' 35-19 loss feels like a victory; Mammoth bends, but does not break

A funny thing happened to the Mammoth Huskies on their way to a loss to Bishop.

On the verge of being a blowout victim—again—the Huskies merely lost, 35-19, but with so many positives out of it that coach Marty Thompson spent most of the following weekend with a big smile on his face.

“I think what we showed was some real strength,” he said. “We didn’t give up, and we were just about four plays away from winning that thing.”

The game, at Gault-McClure Stadium, got off to a predictable start, with Bishop taking a 7-0 lead.

But sophomore return specialist Steven Orrick erased the opening indignity by one of the more amazing returns of recent years.

Taking a bouncing ball off the right sideline, Orrick secured the ball, made two cutbacks and then was off on a 99-yard touchdown return that thrilled a packed grandstand and brought the two teams even.

“When I saw the ball bouncing around down there,” Thompson said, “I was thinking, ‘Let it go! Let it go!’ but then Orrick picked it up and I went from ‘No-No-No!’ to ‘Yes-Yes-Yes!’”

However, the senior-heavy Huskies, who hit the road for the first time this season on Friday, Sept. 20, at Desert, could not hold the momentum.

Pinning Bishop into a fourth-and-19 situation deep in Huskies territory, Bishop converted, setting up a go-ahead touchdown.

In the ensuing Mammoth drive, the Huskies drove downfield smartly, and were set up for a score, when quarterback Lucas Underkoffler (9-for-14, 147 yards) threw the first of his three interceptions on the night, pulling the string on a ball with a wide-open receiver begging for the ball.

In recent years past, the Huskies—they are always overmatched against Bishop—the team might have bucked, but they didn’t, thanks in large part to this year’s revelation, Alex Mueller.

“I never thought he was going to turn into the player he’s become,” Thompson said.

Mueller finished his work for the game with three receptions for 72 yards, including one that was good for 44 yards; on defense, the outside linebacker led the team with 11 solo tackles and seven assists, better, even, than captain Matt Graef’s seven tackles and 11 assists.

Meanwhile, Denis Orrick continued to dominate the rushing game with 127 yards on 12 carries, including a 43-yarder.

Thus when it was over, and the Huskies, 40-8 winners over Rosamond in the opener, were 1-1 for the season, it felt better than that to the players and to Thompson and his coaching staff.

“We’re going to be OK this year,” Thompson said, his big smile never leaving his face.