BELLEVILLE - You could be an optimist and be a glass-half-full guy and look at a 46-0 loss in the season opener knowing there are nine more games in the season.
That is the case with the New Jersey Spartans football team, who took a beating by the Tri-State Bulldogs in the Major League Football opener on Saturday night at Belleville Municipal Stadium.
From the opening kickoff in the hot, stuffy weather, you could tell the team that played last week and the team that didn't. That was the case as Tri-State opened their season the previous weekend while New Jersey had a bye and was opening their 2011 campaign on Saturday.
And fortunately for the Spartans, it will be 0-0 when New Jersey plays its second game of the season on Saturday at the Brooklyn Mariners at 7 pm.
"I think we'll have a big chip on our shoulder next week," said Spartans head coach Kevin Moss.
With a game under their belt Moss assured the New Jersey Spartans fans that there will be a better effort against the Mariners. “We have some great fans, but maybe it will be good to get away and play on the road,” said Moss, whose team just missed making the playoffs.
Moss and the Spartans should have a better show for their fans in two weeks for the next home game against the New Jersey Broncos (August 6, 6 pm).
On Saturday you could tell from the start that the Spartans, especially the offense, was out of sync with the timing, not just there between New Jersey quarterback Mike Kohler and his top wide receivers including Travis Edwards and Belleville High School alum Timothy Roberts.
As the gap widened in the game, the Spartans were relegated to throwing the ball and the New Jersey quality running game led by Christian Guzman and Belleville High grad Eddie Feliciano Jr. was sort of put to the side.
And on the other side of the ball Tri-State quarterback Ryan Holmes was taking advantage of the coverage breakdowns in the defensive backfield, along with the missed tackles from the Spartans defense.
“We had at least 20 missed tackles in the first half and 17 of those came in the backfield,” said Moss.
One of those was on the Bulldogs opening drive when Holmes ran a bootleg for a 45-yard touchdown run that turned out to be the game winner in the end and gave Tri-State a 6-0 lead with three minutes off the clock. One of the few highlights came on the point after as New Jersey blocked it.
And again New Jersey’s inability to tackle came on Tri-State’s second drive, when Bulldogs running Corey Lane maneuvered around the Spartans defense for a 40-yard touchdown run and a 13-0 Tri-State lead.
While the Spartans defense gave up 46 points, they had some of their best efforts of the game coming from defensive back James Wright and defensive end Eddie Porter. "Eddie had a great game when he is in there and is one of our captains," said Moss who added that Porter came late to the game because of his job.
As it turns out the Spartans best drive came in their last one as the starters returned to the field.
Kohler helped move the ball down the field after starting deep in their own territory at the three-yard line. Kohler was able to hit his top receivers in Roberts and Edwards while also taking advantage of some Tri-State penalties.
With the game in its waning seconds Moss had Kohler go for it all and he was picked off by Bulldogs Ernest Fraser in the end zone.
The Spartans knew there was going to be a problem when in the first two drives they went three and punt.
While that was happening the Bulldogs would score on their first two drives, both coming on big plays.
And the Bulldogs did not stop as they took advantage of New Jersey's sluggishness, with Tri-State taking a 34-0 lead by halftime.
While New Jersey's defense improved in the second half, Moss would get his backups some time. The Spartans head coach would give time to John Johnson and Wright as signal caller. "The second half gave me an opportunity to give some of the players some playing time that did not get enough in the preseason," said Moss.
New Jersey Spartans Regular Season schedule
(Home games at Belleville Municipal Stadium, Passaic Avenue)
July 30 at Brooklyn Mariners, 7 p.m.
August 6 New Jersey Broncos, 6 p.m.
August 13 at North East Pennsylvania Miners 7 p.m.
August 20 at Philadelphia Steelers, 7 p.m.
August 27 New Jersey Lions, 6 p.m.
Sept. 3 Bye week
Sept. 10 at Jersey Wolves, 6 p.m.
Sept. 17 at Arbutus Big Red, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 Philadelphia Phoenix, 6 p.m.
Oct. 1 Jersey Wolves, 6 p.m.