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Bucs mount second half comeback after Pats lose quarterback

PACIFIC BEACH – Mission Bay didn’t get off to the best start against Orange Glen – but it didn’t end up mattering. The Buccaneers erased an early deficit and took control with a flurry of big plays in the second half for a 20-6 win over the shorthanded Patriots on Friday afternoon.

Orange Glen (0-1) broke a scoreless tie first midway through the second quarter with a 43-yard touchdown run by senior running back Jorge Loa. On the 80-yard drive, however, Patriots starting quarterback Austin Early suffered a right shoulder injury and didn’t return for the rest of the game.

“We put points on the board and then we tried to get another quarterback up to speed at halftime, which was very difficult,” said Orange Glen head coach Kris Plash. “It took away our option threat and we went to more of a traditional offense.”

Orange Glen led 6-0 at halftime after a first half in which Mission Bay (1-0) struggled to move the ball. In spite of the Buccaneers’ sloppy start to the game, senior defensive end Aaron Cobbler wasn’t worried about the outcome.

“We went into the locker room and I told the guys that we needed to step up,” Cobbler said. “Everybody already had doubts, but the way I saw it we had the game from the jump. I tried to show everybody that we had the game and that there was no reason to have our heads down.”

After both teams started the third quarter with three-and-outs, Mission Bay found its stride offensively. Junior running back Devante Kinder broke a long gain up the middle to spark a scoring drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Nick Plum to junior receiver Andre Petties-Wilson – a score that set off a sequence of big plays for the host Buccaneers.

“The linebacker dropped right to Andre, but I had faith enough in him to let it go and he made a great play on the ball,” Plum said. “That was definitely a momentum changer.”

After a Mission Bay stop, the Buccaneers got the ball back and took the lead on a Plum 10-yard pass to senior receiver Kelly Weese early in the fourth quarter. Plum struggled to find receivers in the first two quarters of his first varsity start, but settled in to lead the Buccaneers offense in the second half.

“In the second half coach had enough faith to put me back in there and I came out there throwing,” Plum said. “I stopped thinking and started doing.”

Mission Bay’s defense backed Orange Glen up to its own goal line on the ensuing drive, sparked by the energy of Cobbler and senior linebacker Jo Jo Griffin. With the Patriots punting from their own end zone, the 6-foot-4-inch Cobbler broke through and stretched out to block the kick and give the Buccaneers the ball at the at the four-yard line.

“From the first punt that they kicked I was close, and I was getting closer and closer. I just had crazy enthusiasm to try and get there,” Cobbler said. “I told everybody I was going to try and get one, and I finally got it.”

Plum scored on a one-yard keeper to put Mission Bay ahead 20-6 with 7:18 remaining in the game. While the Buccaneers quickly took control of the game, Orange Glen couldn’t get anything going with backup quarterback Josh Spina subbing for the injured Early.

“Austin is what makes everything tick on our offense,” Plash said. “When he went down, they moved nine into the box and we had a quarterback who has had very few reps who come in. They knew we couldn’t really throw the ball effectively.”

Orange Glen managed only one first down in the second half as Mission Bay rolled to its first season opening win in three seasons. The Buccaneers’ three-touchdown outburst during an eight-minute stretch in the third and fourth quarters was enough to grab control of the game.

“We don’t have to make a big play to make another big play, but once we do the heart starts pumping, the blood starts flowing and you get the chills,” Cobbler said. “We were either going to start [the season] off good or start off bad, and this game got everybody in the right mindset.”

Pictured: Mission Bay running back James Phillips carries the ball with Orange Glen linebacker Neil Bonahoom giving chase

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