The Ottawa High School football team knew it needed a near-perfect performance to stay with a strong Piper squad Friday night at Steve Grogan Stadium.
Six turnovers (five interceptions and a fumble) fueled the Pirates to a 55-0 win over the Cyclones.
The Ottawa coaches were not disheartened by the effort.
"We are not that bad," OHS football coach Rob Hedrick said. "We did so many good things. Noah McCullough is going to be a heck of a quarterback. He’s going to be exciting back there. Noah is upset about the interceptions. He has not played this game since eighth grade. His teammates were doing a good job of letting him know that they believe in him."
Piper took advantage of their athleticism to jump all over the Cyclones’ mistakes.
"You can never win when you turn the ball over that many times," Hedrick said. "Our offense kept putting our defense in a bad position. We did not give our defense a chance with our turnovers. Piper is a heck of a football team."
Hedrick saw some good things when Ottawa kept control of the ball.
"The O-line did a good job," he said. "We were getting 2 or 3 yards a pop. We were doing some good things offensively. I saw so many good things from our kids."
Hedrick said the makeup of the Cyclones will get them through the tough start.
"The senior class is so strong with their character and leadership," he said. "The seniors were upbeat the entire game. In the second half, they were supporting each other. The kids are not going to get down on themselves.
"This group has what it takes to get better every week. These kids are hard workers. They are good kids and believe in each other. We are going to be where we want to be by the end of the year."
The Cyclones suited nine seniors out of a roster of 40 players. The seniors were introduced before the game in Senior Night ceremonies.
Hedrick said there were several players playing in their first varsity football game.
"We have so many new kids that got their feet wet against a very good football team," he said. "They kinda see the speed of the game. We had a lot of kids playing their first Friday night game. That is a big step. The Friday night lights are bright. These kids never backed down. We are going to see teams like that every week in the Frontier League."
The coaches said this game was a good learning experience.
"We got a lot of guys reps," Hedrick said. "We will see who can may be earn some more playing time."
The Cyclones found a possible strength with kicker Reese Fogle, who also plays for the soccer team. He just missed a 42-yard field goal.
"That is well within his range," Hedrick said. "He mishit it a little bit. He has a big leg. It was into the wind. It was good experience and he has the leg to do that. Now, we have a live rep in with a field goal."
Ottawa (0-1) plays Friday at home against Baldwin.