By Pete Borello
The Gunn High football team was feeling pretty good about itself after wiping out Westmont in the opening week of the season, leaving the Titans a win away from their first 2-0 start since 1971. But visiting James Lick had other ideas, handing Gunn a humbling 22-14 defeat Friday in the nonleague game.
"My biggest job now is to re-motivate this team," Gunn coach Mike Johnson said. "We won in summer league and then started the season with a win, so this was their first taste of defeat. It will tke them some time to get over it."
Gunn will have to get re-focused in a hurry in order to face the challenge of Milpitas on Friday night (7:30 p.m.) at the Milpitas Sports Complex (east end of Calaveras Road).
The Titans must be able to recover from the turnovers they suffered against Lick. Gunn gave the ball away four times, and the Comets made them pay for it. Three of those miscues resulted in Lick points.
Titan quarterback Shaun McCalister committed three of the turnovers, throwing an interception and fumbling twice.
"Without the mistakes, we win this game," Johnson said.
The most detrimental turnover came moments after Lick took a 16-14 lead with 9:38 remaining in the game. Gunn couldn't have asked for much better field position, starting the drive at the Lick 25 after McCalister returned the kickoff 45 yards and the officials tacked on another 15 for a late hit. But on first down, McCalister ran with the ball out in front of him and Lick linebacker Julio Jana stripped it from his right hand. Teammate Dominic Clark pounced on the ball at the 19 for his second fumble recovery of the game.
Lick (2-0) patiently worked its way downfield, consuming 8:18 of clock with a 14-play drive that resulted in a TD against an exhausted Gunn defense.
"The poor guys were tired," Johnson said. "We have nine two-way starters and they had to play a lot of defense today."
With only 1:20 to go, Gunn started at its own 40 but could get no closer to the end zone. McCalister was sacked on first down, threw incomplete on second and was sacked again on third as time ran out.
The one bright spot for Gunn was its running game, something it has struggled with in recent years. The Titans racked up 185 yards on the ground, 113 of those coming from halfback Brian Carson.
"The blocking was there and the holes were open," Carson said. "The line did a great job."
Johnson, a self-described "passing coach," said he was surprised that his team ran so well. Gunn threw only seven passes, but Johnson said he was merely taking what the defense gave him.
"Lick used five guys to defend the pass," he said. "With only six guys up front, we'll run the ball."
The Titans opened the game with seven straight running plays, marching 45 yards to the Lick 15. McCalister then fumbled a handoff to Carson and Lick recovered.
Gunn's first drive of the second quarter led to the game's first score. Again, the ground attack came through, accounting for all 67 yards of the six-play drive. Fullback Peter Su had a 25-yard run and Carson had bursts of 16 and 22 yards. Su finished the series with a 1-yard scoring dash to make it 6-0. Gunn led just one more time, 14-10 early in the fourth quarter.
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