Shortly after Culver football kicked off against Illinois Valley last Friday, the Bulldogs didn't appear to be rattled.
The game was moved to Roseburg High School from Cave Junction as a result of wildfire smoke throughout Southern Oregon and required the Bulldogs to leave Culver at 5:30 a.m. to make the noon kickoff time.
Head coach Jesus Retano worried that the unusual change could play a factor, but when they stepped on the field, the Bulldogs squashed that idea.
Culver senior Weston Basl intercepted an Ilinois Valley pass in the first quarter, which set up a Basl 6-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Jorge Olivera.
From there, however, the 3A Cougars took command of the game. Four unanswered touchdowns put Illinois Valley ahead 28-6 to entering the fourth quarter, which Retano attributed to blown defensive assignments leading to big plays.
"It was just misssed assignments (and) giving up the big plays," Retano said. "(If) some kids do their assignments, those big plays get eliminated and we're in the game. I think it was just a little bit of mental mistakes, which we can work on.
"It's a good first game for them; I thought it was a good learning experience," said Retano, who was also coaching his first game on the Culver sideline. "They got to learn, if I don't do this, this could happen. They got to see it firsthand."
The final score of 40-20 in favor of Illinois Valley didn't reflect a few strong individual performances among the Culver defense.
Defensive lineman Cole Little recorded five solo tackles, which included two sacks and a tackle for loss; Linebacker Joe Russo also had two sacks and a total of six solo and four assisted tackles; and fellow line backer Victor Torres had five solo tackles.
The Bulldogs added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, on runs from Olivera and Torres, who accounted for 159 rushing yards on 22 carries.
Overall, the team totaled 306 rushing yards 60 through the air.
This week, Culver will play La Pine at home, another 3A team, and one that the Bulldogs will want to get revenge on after a narrow, 30-24 loss last season.
The nonleague matchup will kickoff at 7 p.m. on Friday.