WAITSBURG - Fresh from a preseason loss against the Idaho Matadors and the loss of their best running back, the Waitsburg Elite face the high-ranking Spo- kane Wolf Pack in their regu- lar season opener at Cardinal Field Saturday. Kickoff is at 3 p.m.
"It will be interesting to see what they bring," team owner and quarterback George Martinez said about the Elite's first opponent of the season.
The Elite went down 32-7 against the Matadors on Easter weekend, March 30, a game that drew 225 to the stands at Cardinal Field, a good number considering many local residents were on spring vacation, Martinez said.
The not-so-good news was the loss of running back Brandon Tate (WHS '03), who tore a hamstring and will be out for two months, the balance of the season.
"He was our weapon," said Martinez, noting Tate is known in the league as an elusive runner who is hard to tackle. "It's a huge hit for us."
The inaugural game for the Elite on Easter week- end arrived with plenty of sunshine and 70-degree temperatures, according to Elite sports writer Rosendo Guizar.
"This game was going to be a tough test for the Elite, as the experienced Matador squad was coming off an undefeated 2012 season," Guizar noted on the team's website. "With this being Elite's first game ever, mis- takes were to be expected."
But the Elite squad hung tough during the first half, he said. Despite too many Elite turnovers in the first half, the halftime score was only 13-7 in favor of the Matadors go- ing into halftime.
The Elite defense was a formidable opponent in the first half as they held the potent Matador offense to only 7 points. The defense was led by big plays by Trent Hetterely, James Harrison, and Tony Pate, as well as the steady and dependable linebacker play of Blake Schwarz.
One of the biggest turn- ing points in the first half occurred when Elite's Trent Hetterely got into a scuffle with a Matador receiver. Unfortunately for the Elite, Hetterely was ejected from the game.
Immediately following the ejection, the Matadors put together a scoring drive and got their first offensive touchdown of the first half. Trailing 13-0 and after nu- merous first half turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown, the Elite offense needed to put together a drive to get back into the game.
On cue, Brandon Tate came alive. Following the big blocks from his offensive linemen, Tate put together a strong rushing drive that culminated with a 19 yard touchdown run that saw Tate break tackles all the way to the end zone.
The second half began poorly for the Elite and ended worse. Looking to establish the running game behind Tate's running, he was injured early in the third quarter and the offense came unraveled after that point. Missing their power- ful rusher, the offense was only able to generate a single first down in the second half.
As the fatigue set in on the defense, the Matador offense was able to take advantage and they put together scoring drive after scoring drive.
"They were a really good team," Martinez said. "Our defense did a really good job, but the offense struggled and turned the ball over too many times."
With Tate on injury, Mar- tinez said the Elite will have to switch from their singleback offense to a two-back offense with a double tight end formation and hope it works against a league team that consistently ranks third.
"Spokane is a pretty tough team," he said.