By Tom Price Jr.
Exeter's playoff hopes were about as stable as the muddy ground they stood on before they faced off with the Lindsay Cardinals (0-3, 3-5) on Friday, in the first annual Orange Crate Game at Frank Skadan Stadium in Lindsay.
They would slip and fall with a 12-7 loss to the Cardinals who had yet to win an East Sequoia League game.
"Dropped passes, bad decisions that stuff ads up," Exeter coach Robert Dougherty said. "We didn't have a great week of practice and we didn't play really well tonight."
Exeter scored on their second possession of the game when quarterback Drew Branch connected with Eric Capello for a 19-yard touchdown. It was Capello's only catch of the game and the only score for the Monarchs who were pressured by a Cardinal defense that displayed uncharacteristic aggression and speed.
"It was a good defensive game, we just didn't get the breaks for the second week in a row," Exeter runningback Carlos Gastelum said. "It is disappointing, our offense was just out of whack."
Exeter was so out of whack that the area's top passer, Drew Branch, competed just 23-of-47 passes for only 193 yards. Branch was harassed continuously throughout the game and was sacked twice by safety Anthony Gonzalez in the second half. Both sacks were crucial drive ending sacks.
"He was huge, those were two clutch plays," Lindsay coach Paul Dieterle said. "He is one of our best pass rushers."
Lindsay's defense stepped up late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory. After Exeter drove down to their 13-yard line behind the legs of runningback Denno Daly, the Cardinals shut down the Monarchs who were looking at a first down 13 yards away from victory.
On fourth down, Branch threw wide of his receiver and the celebrating began for the Cardinals.
Cory Griffin, the No. 2 receiver in the central section was limited to eight catches for only 46 yards and Daly had the most productive game with 80 yards on the ground.
Under most circumstances the Monarchs might struggle to recover from their second consecutive last minute loss, but they are looking forward to their rivalry game with Woodlake on Friday.
"We just have to go on and not slack off this week," Griffin said. "The next game is for pride."