YORKSHIRE - Rob Genco's coaching ability was severely tested in Dunkirk's season-opening 21-12 loss to Pioneer (1-0) on Friday night in Class B action.
The Marauders (0-1) jumped to an early lead with a touchdown drive in the first quarter, but lost two starting linemen in the process, forcing Genco to do some lineup shuffling.
Quarterback Kevin Burns led the Dunkirk offense down the field before Zack Torrain capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run for a 6-0 lead.
Burns finished with 13 rushes for 105 yards while completing 4 of 14 for 40 yards.
Pioneer answered back just a couple plays later with a 57-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
"We just blew a coverage," Genco said of the play. "We knew we just blew a coverage and that we could hold them."
That's when the game took a bizarre turn for the Marauders.
With both starting offensive guards out of the game with injuries, Genco inserted backup linemen, one of which was wearing a jersey number reserved for the wide receiver position. The mix-up was noticed by the officials and Dunkirk was flagged for an illegal procedure penalty, stalling what had been a productive drive.
"We came out and drove all the way down the field and then got the penalty," Genco said. "We lost three linemen, two in the first drive. You just don't anticipate that happening."
Though the situation was certainly unexpected, Genco wasn't about to blame the lack of points solely on the penalty.
"We had a lot of mental mistakes on the drive," he said. "We still had momentum. We moved the ball more than them. We just didn't execute our best."
After Dunkirk's third starting lineman went down, Genco's coaching ability was really put to the test.
"It kind of shrunk the playbook," he explained. "(Pioneer) was getting a heavy rush on our quarterback. The kids still fought. The (reserves) stepped up and fought hard and we're proud of them."
Even with all the drama that accompanied the first half, the Marauders went into halftime tied 6-6.
Pioneer, however, struck like lightning to open the second half. First the Panthers returned the kickoff for a touchdown and added the two-point conversion for a 14-6 lead.
Dunkirk fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Pioneer quickly connected on a 9-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 21-6.
"That was tough to lose the ball right away," Genco added. "(Pioneer) scored 14 points and we didn't touch the ball once.
"It was a learning experience," he continued. "I made mistakes. I need to look at my performance just like I look at theirs. We have something here. If we minimize mistakes and make some adjustments we'll be fine."
As time ran down in the fourth quarter, Burns was able to cut into the deficit with a 15-yard touchdown run, but it was too little, too late.
Marquel Ruiz rushed six times for 46 yards, Edwin Gomez finished with 31 yards on just three carries and Torrain carried six times for 19 yards and the touchdown.
Though his Marauders came up short in his head coaching debut, Genco saw plenty of positives that he and his athletes can build off of.
"We're not going to dwell on mistakes," he explained. "We're going to find out why we made those mistakes. We'll be watching film (Saturday) and fix some of the mistakes we made.
"I'm proud of the guys," he concluded. "They were classy and I couldn't ask them to represent our school better than they did. They were warriors on the field."
Dunkirk will again look to earn its first win of the season Saturday, at Olean.