NACHES - Starting four freshmen, it was a young Mabton Viking football team that opened the Lower Valley's football season last night in a 34-6 loss at Naches.
The host Rangers took charge from the get-go on Friday night, posting a 20-0 lead by the half.
The Naches advantage was as much as 34-0 before one of Mabton's freshman players, Roy Zavala, found paydirt on a 12-yard touchdown run with two minutes to play in the contest.
Despite the one-sided result, Mabton showed signs of progress in its first game, winning the turnover struggle by forcing four Naches miscues and only committing one.
"We won the turnover battle. Last year that was our problem," said Mabton Coach Trevor Curtis.
He says the Vikings have plenty of room for improvement, though, especially on pass defense as the Rangers connected for five touchdown tosses.
"We shut down their run, but we have to work on our coverage on pass defense," Curtis said.
On offense, Mabton was only able to complete one pass for one yard last night. Meanwhile, the Viking ground attack recorded just over 100 yards rushing.
The Viking ground game was led by Josh Carrasco with 30 yards rushing on seven carries. Carrasco was also a standout on defense in intercepting one Naches pass attempt.
Looking ahead, Curtis hopes to see his team have a more balanced attack on offense.
"We want to mix it up but we have a lot of young starters who are still learning," the coach said.
Curtis says his team will be more competitive at next Friday's home opener against Wahluke. "We'll have more players eligible for Friday, but our pass coverage will have to be ready to go because I think they'll come out and pass on us."
The Mabton football team is playing a non-league schedule this year because the school competes in the 1A SCAC, but the gridiron team had petitioned the WIAA to compete at the B level because of low turnout numbers, Curtis noted.
Mabton football, for example, finished the 2011 season with fewer than 30 players.
The Viking request was turned down, leaving Mabton football with a non-league slate this season against a mix of 1A and B schools.
Curtis says that's okay, because the aim is for the Vikings to get a taste of success.
"We're not focused on playoffs, right now let's just get some wins," he said.