Despite having played three games and with its SCVAL El Camino Division opener just a week away, there's still plenty to work on for the Gunn football team even after a 25-20 nonleague triumph over host Hillsdale on Saturday.
"We're going to be working extra on special teams all week," Gunn coach Bob Sykes told GunnTitans.com. "We have to do better than what we showed today."
Sykes is concerned after his special teams were not that special, suffering two letdowns in the third quarter that nearly reversed the Titans' 2-1 start this season.
"That was a tough game," said Sykes. "We have a lot we need to work on. There were times we executed well, but there were times we were our own worst enemy. We'll get back at it at practice this week."
Gunn has only a few days to get ready before hosting Lynbrook on Friday at 7:30 p.m., where a victory would give the Titans their first back-to-back triumphs in six years. That should be enough time for Sykes to iron out the problems that nearly cost his team on a sweltering hot day with temperatures in the 90s.
Midway through the third quarter it appeared that Gunn had control of the game when Josh Jackson scored from two yards out to put the Titans up 19-7. However, Hillsdale's Jovon Carter returned the kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to cut the score to 19-14.
The Titans' next drive stalled near midfield and special teams had a meltdown again as Hilldale's Anthony Huni went down the right sideline for a 75-yard punt return to give Hillsdale a 20-19 lead. At one point in the third quarter Hillsdale had run only three plays in the first 10:30 of the quarter but still had managed to score two touchdowns.
Fortunately for Gunn, the Titans were able to move the ball effectively down the field as the heat took a toll on Hillsdale as numerous Knights suffered from cramps. The Titans went up late in the third quarter as a 41-yard pass from Anthony Cannon to Jon Zeglin set up a one-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Godoy to put the Titans up 25-20.
Hillsdale had a number of opportunities to retake the lead after that, but the Titans came up with timely defensive plays or got help from the Knights themselves.
When Hillsdale reached Gunn's 19 with a fourth-and-two situation, a fumble killed the drive. Later, the Knights had a 55-yard pass play that looked to be going all the way before Gunn's Kazzie Hill made a touchdown-saving tackle. When the Knights continued the march and got to the Gunn 17, the Titans' Matt Mertz laid a big hit on Hillsdale's Gustavo Torres, who fumbled the ball into the end zone where Gunn's Blake Johnson recovered to save the day.
Hillsdale had one final chance with 1:32 left to play, but Johnson intercepted and pass and Gunn was able to run out the clock.
Gunn bounced back early after Hillsdale had taken a 7-0 lead, with Maceo Parks making a one-handed catch on an interception before diving into the end zone to complete the 22-yard scoring play.
With 1:32 left in the opening half, Danny Luskin tossed an 18-yard TD pass to Jon Zeglin for a 13-7 lead. Zeglin finished with 120 receiving yards on five receptions while Josh Jackson had 93 rushing yards on 11 carries. Parks added 75 yards rushing.
Gunn 0 13 12 0 – 25
Hillsdale 7 0 13 0 – 20
H – Carter 16 pass from Warburton (Sato kick)
G – Parks 22 interception return (Smith kick)
G – Zeglin 18 pass from Luskin (kick blocked)
G – J. Jackson 2 run (kick fail)
H – Carter 93 kickoff return (Sato kick)
H – Huni 75 punt return (run fail)
G – Godoy 1 run (pass fail)
RUSHING: Gunn, J. Jackson 11-93, Parks 12-75, Godoy 9-47, C. Jackson 5-25, Cannon 7-(minus 14). Hillsdale, Torres 17-75, Warburton 2-9, Hutnick 1-1. Totals: Gunn 44-226; Hillsdale 20-89.
PASSING: Gunn, Cannon 5-10-117--0, Luskin 2-4-28-1. Hillsdale, Warburton 10-20-209-1, Hutnick 0-1-0-0. Totals: Gunn 7-14-145-1; Hillsdale 10-21-209-1.
RECEIVING: Gunn, Zeglin 5-120, J. Jackson 1-16, Ziebelman 1-9. Hillsdale, Hutnick 4-135, Constantine 3-41, Carter 1-16, Huni 1-15, Torres 1-2. Totals: Gunn 7-145; Hillsdale 10-209.
Records: Gunn 2-1