OGDEN — Zhane Espinoza sat at the table, wearing his full Ben Lomond High football uniform. The expression on his face was blank. He was holding his helmet on the table, lost in thought.
Long after the rest of the Scots football team filed out of a classroom in the Ogden School District building featuring 1991’s hottest technology, Xavier Garcia was sitting in a chair toward the back of the room. Garcia had his head in one hand and his helmet in another.
This was part of the scene after Ben Lomond was handed its fourth loss in as many games to open the 2019 season.
Friday’s defeat came at the hands of Tooele High, who led 47-0 at halftime and ended on top, 61-0.
The Scots, sporting a triple-option offense this year, fumbled on their first offensive play of the game. Tooele scored four plays later on a short touchdown run from BYU commit Nukuluve Helu.
Helu scored another touchdown on the Buffaloes’ next drive. Tooele led 21-0 after the first quarter. Both teams emptied the bench in the second half.
“We’re obviously not where we need to be. Did I think we’d be a little further along? Yes. Are we? No. But, I do believe we’ve played two pretty good football teams,” Scots first-year head coach Lyndon Johnson said.
Taking over a football program is always a tough task, no matter who you are and where you are. The difficulties are magnified at Ben Lomond.
There’s low turnout — 37 players dressed for Friday’s game and there are nine freshmen on the roster — and many kids who play on the team have things going on at home that qualify as legitimate adversity, rather than the type of “adversity” football coaches normally like to spout off about to motivate their teams.
Ben Lomond is playing home games at the school district complex a mile-and-a-half away from its campus while its new gymnasium and bleachers are being constructed, meaning there’s less fans for home games.
Several players are injured. The Scots’ state-worst losing streak now sits at 27 games, dating back to late in the 2016 season.
“They’ve endured some tough stretches here with the football program. It’s a credit to them to continue to show up because the easy thing to do would be separate yourself and quit. I still have 40 guys that come mostly every day. That’s not easy,” Johnson said.
The Scots came close to ending the streak two weeks ago against American Leadership Academy, losing 31-28 on a last-minute touchdown after taking the lead in the fourth quarter.
They’ve been shut out in the three other games. Despite the apparent lopsidedness of the 0-4 start, Johnson says he’s seen improvement from the team each week.
“I believe next year at this time we’ll be stronger, we’ll be in better shape, we’ll understand the system better both offensively and defensively, we have some pretty good young guys that are going to continue to get better and stronger and bigger. I’m very confident we’ll be in a lot better shape next year than we are right now,” Johnson said.
There’s plenty of confidence and optimism that the Scots will someday soon break out. It’s just going to take a lot of time.
“I need guys that will hang with us, and I’ve got some guys that will. I know that they’ll give us everything they’ve got and that’s all you can do,” Johnson said.