There’s nothing like getting into an argument with the new coach after his first game, I always say.
In the aftermath of a season-opening 28-21 loss at Palm Desert High School, Jeff Steinberg was fed a question that he could’ve easily ducked.
The question was simple: Beaumont lost to the Aztecs because its defenders weren’t coming up with big hits, simple stops, routine tackles. Palm Desert ball carriers and receivers were escaping.
It wasn’t exactly a head-hunting game.
The real story, of course, is how Beaumont battled back from a 13-0 deficit. The Cougars looked weak. Overwhelmed. Overmatched. When starting quarterback Devin Dillard limped off the field, you figured no one could replace that gifted 6-foot-3 senior.
Backup quarterback Eddie McCulloch hit on 17 passes, two touchdowns to Brennen Jenkyns, 250 yards and rallied the Cougars to a 21-13 lead by halftime.
This was Steinberg’s designed offense. He’s done this in Ridgecrest. In Fontana. In Corona. And over in Moreno Valley. In a span of just over three quarters of play, Steinberg gave hope to all 5-foot, 6-inch, 150-pound quarterback hopefuls in Beaumont.
He chuckled about McCulloch, who transferred from Yucaipa before last season.
“They come in all shapes and sizes,” Steinberg said. “We were looking for a spark. Eddie works hard. He wants to please his coaches.”
Yes, said Steinberg, “he pleased us.”
Defensively, though, something was missing.
Palm Desert players were escaping the grasp of most Cougar defenders.
It’s those new rules, I asked Steinberg, “isn’t it?”
He shook his head.
“They’ve had a year (to play),” said Steinberg, “under the new rules.”
The rules are pretty clear: No helmet-leading hits. No going for the opponent’s head.
Wayne Smith had a quarterback sack. Chase Furtado came up with a tackle for lost yardage. Mark Vander Woude and Erwin Villanueva came up with some nice stops. Logan Perez stuffed it all up inside. Josh Dominguez and, in particular, Peter Lewis turned back Palm Desert.
I winced when Vander Woude knocked down Palm Desert punt returner Ben Cowan on a key fourth-quarter punt.
Was it a helmet-first knockdown? I waited for a flag. None thrown.
Beaumont’s defenders missed key tackles. Sideliners were talking about new rules, filtered down from the NFL.
Eliminate violent tactics. Save on concussions.
It seemed like first-year defensive coordinator Derrick Dial had Cougar defenders in the right spot to make plays. Something was off. Something was missing. Something didn’t seem right.
There were no “big hits.”
Had to be those new rules. Anti-contact rules, you might say.
Were guys holding back? Afraid of getting penalized? Steinberg would have none of it.
“We’re not hitting every day in practice,” he said.
A good chunk of Palm Desert’s 314 total yards seemed to be YAC (yards after contact).
It wasn’t really an argument. Call it more of a minor disagreement. That part of our post-game chat took no more than, say, two minutes. Steinberg waved it off like a math whiz balances a checkbook.
“We need to continue on some of the (tackling) drills,” he said. “We’ll get there.”