Turnovers plague Shiprock in 20-8 loss to Chinle

Jake Newby The Daily Times
The Daily Times

SHIPROCK — Saturday was a night to forget for the Shiprock football team.

The Chieftains couldn't get out of their own way in the second week of the season, turning the ball over five times in a 20-8 home loss to Chinle, Ariz., at Chieftain Stadium.

Shiprock (0-2) turned the ball over on each of its first four offensive drives, fumbling the ball away twice, turning it over on downs and throwing a second-quarter interception.

Chieftains quarterback Arjay Miller struggled with his reads all night, and his offensive line didn't do him many favors, as he was sacked seven times.

He often saw three or four Wildcat defenders in the backfield, and even when he had time to throw, he often held the ball too long or threw it into heavy traffic.

Chieftains coach Eric Stovall said the disoriented offense starts with himself and the game planning.

"I have to do a better job preparing the kids, and I didn't do a very good job tonight," he said. "We've got to correct some things up front. We've got to execute better. We can't expect to turn the ball over and allow sacks and still win games."

The Wildcats (1-1) didn't exactly light it up on offense themselves in the first half. Senior quarterback Rodney Nez threw two interceptions in the first quarter. Chinle also turned the ball over on downs once before the break.

But the Wildcats did find some sort of offensive continuity late in the second quarter, as Rez scored on a 12-yard keeper and threw a 16-yard touchdown pass just before halftime.

A one-hour, 42-minute lightning delay took place at the end of the halftime ceremony that honored Navajo Nation World War II veterans. Stovall said the long break was difficult for his players.

"It's tough because they're 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds, and it's hard to adjust to that," he said. "But at the same time, through the course of a game, you still have to step up, do your job and take care of business. And again, that starts with the coaching staff."

The Shiprock offense didn't look much better in the second half, going three and out on its first three third-quarter drives.

Late in the third, Chinle added to its lead with a 4-yard touchdown run to cap a 10-play, 55-yard drive in which the Chieftains were hit with two penalties.

With a little more than nine minutes to go in the game and trailing by 20, Miller was intercepted for the second time at Chinle's 29-yard line to basically end the Chieftains' comeback hopes.

Shiprock did show faint signs of life when Miller connected with Brandon Lapahe for a 34-yard touchdown pass at the 5:51 mark of the fourth quarter, but it would wind up being the Chieftains' only score of the night.

The hosts couldn't do anything with their final possession of the game, which began at the 3:29 mark of the fourth. That last drive included an underthrown pass for an incompletion, a sack and two dropped passes, including the last one on fourth down.

Following the overall poor performance, Stovall said his team has a lot of corrections to make during its bye week and ahead of its Sept. 18 homecoming game against Questa.

"It starts with instilling confidence; that's the biggest thing," Stovall said. "They have to know that they can get the job done. It just starts with hard work in practice and preparing better than we did as a whole in tonight's game."

Miller finished 7 for 23 for 162 yards passing, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Shiprock signal caller carried the ball seven times for 37 yards to lead the team in rushing.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and jnewby@daily-times.com. Follow him @JakeNewby07 on Twitter.