CASTLEFORD — Hagerman’s 2016 season-opener shifted 23 miles to the south a year later. Hardly anything else changed.
The Hagerman High School football team beat Castleford 50-0 on August 26 last year, and running back Caleb Owsley was the star (two touchdowns, about 300 yards). Owsley, now a senior, was arguably better on Friday night.
Owsley scored four touchdowns, all in the first half, in the Pirates’ 46-8 nonconference victory Friday night at Castleford High School. Hagerman has now beaten the Wolves in three straight seasons. The combined score in those three games is 145-17.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that you got a victory, but we talked about how much we still need to improve,” Hagerman coach Mark Kress said. “And yet, we had some standout players tonight.”
Coaches always wonder how their players will handle the first-game nerves. That’s doubly true when a large chunk of those players are underclassmen.
Castleford’s roster features six seniors, four juniors, five sophomores and six freshmen. Hagerman listed nine sophomores and five freshmen on its roster. Only five seniors and one junior play for the Pirates’ varsity team.
Luckily for Hagerman, one of its few upperclassmen was the best player on the field Friday night.
After a sluggish start, Hagerman got on the board thanks to a 61-yard touchdown run from Owsley.
“It helps propel everyone’s spirits up,” Owsley said of the run. “It gives us more of a reason to fight.”
Three minutes after that, Owsley ran in another TD from 23 yards out. Three and a half minutes later, the senior found the end zone on an 18-yard rush.
Owsley’s fourth and final score came near the end of the first half on a 15-yard catch-and-run. He accounted for 117 yards on those four scoring plays alone. If he didn’t reach 300 yards, it was only because he was pulled in the third quarter.
“He’s our go-to guy. Everybody knows it,” Kress said. “It’s gonna get a lot more difficult for him later in the season because (teams) will eyeball him all over the place, so we’ve gotta find ways to get other kids the ball, and use him as a decoy.”
Castleford had a size advantage last season, Kress said, and the Pirates overcame it with speed. On Friday, they held the edge in both categories.
“Size is not the cat’s meow in eight-man football. You’ll take speed over size any day,” Kress said. “We’re starting to show some signs of some decent speed.”
Hagerman displayed its speed through Owsley, sophomore quarterback/defensive AB Salas and senior wide receiver/linebacker Terrell Wise, among others. Hagerman’s size advantage was mostly clear in the trenches.
Throughout the game, Owsley and company burst through big holes. On the other side, Castleford’s running backs were routinely stuffed on runs up the middle.
“I honestly think we can be competitive with anybody, as long as we can block,” Castleford first year coach Brian Lowry said. “We’ve got the kids to do that, we’ve just gotta find the heart to do that.”
Kress was hardly satisfied with Friday’s win. No outcome could erase his memory of Hagerman’s three turnovers and a bushel of smaller errors.
Overall, though, Hagerman’s takeaways were positive. Castleford, on the other hand, saw flashbacks to the 2016 season-opener.
“We’ve got a lot to work on,” Lowry said.
Hagerman 46, Castleford 8
Hagerman 20 12 14 0 — 46
Castleford 0 0 0 8 — 8
H — Caleb Owsley 61-yard run (pass failed) 7:31
H — Owsley 23-yard run (AB Salas run) 4:25
H — Owsley 18-yard run (conversion failed) 0:51
H — Terrell Wise 19-yard pass from Salas (conversion failed) 3:46
H — Owsley 15-yard pass from Salas (conversion failed) 0:55
H — Chris Belem 11-yard run (conversion failed) 9:00
H — Wise 7-yard run (pass completed)
C — Carter Schiller 60-yard run (run successful) 0:34