Yuma High School’s football team has learned it still has some growing to do.

The Indians travel to Holyoke on Friday still with an opportunity to finish with a winning conference record, sitting at 1-1 in the North Central Conference with three games to go. They are 2-4 overall after enduring a 40-6 lesson at the hands of the remarkably-consistent Burlington Cougars, who once again appear headed to the playoffs.

“What you learn is in big games you have to do the little things incredibly well,” coach Dave Sheffield said. “We slipped significantly in that regard.”

Yuma entered the game on a two-game winning streak. Now the Indians have to try to turn it around on the road at a Holyoke Dragons team that is 0-2 in the NCC, 2-4 overall, after a 41-0 loss at Limon last Friday. The Dragons had opened conference play at Burlington, so they at least have gotten past the conference heavyweights.

“From what we’ve seen on video, they’re going to look at interior runs against us, and try to spread us out a bit,” Sheffield said. “Our defense needs to get back to being sturdy against the run, and our pass defense needs to keep making the progress it has in recent weeks.

“On offense, we need to be able to run the ball, but at the same time get our passing game going again,” he added.

Gianni Trejo wards off a Burlington defender during last Friday’s game in Yuma. (Jake Rayl)

Limon and Burlington both sit at 2-0 in NCC play. Yuma and Wray both are 1-1, and Holyoke and Wiggins both 0-2. Wray rolled past Wiggins 40-8 last Friday at Powell Field.

This Friday’s NCC action includes Limon traveling to Wiggins, and Burlington hosting Wray.

Last Friday, it seemed at times as if the Indians might be able to at least keep it close with Burlington, but would do something to kill their momentum. They had two turnovers, both interceptions, and had a bad snap on a punt that gave the Cougars the ball deep in Yuma territory.

Most telling, though, was the Indians again committed a series of dead ball personal fouls. There have been several this season, mostly from woofing it up after a big hit.

Sheffield said the coaching staff has taken several steps, including punitive, in an effort to correct the loss of poise, but it keeps coming.

“We have too many unnecessary penalties,” Sheffield said. “They’re drive-killers. It’s absurd.”

Yuma ended up with seven penalties for 80 yards, compared to three for 30 yards for the Cougars.

The visitors outgained the Indians 432-76, running 23 more plays (63-40) and gaining five yards more per play (6.9-1.9).

Burlington averaged 6.2 yards per run attempt, gaining 316 yards on 51 carries. Yuma gained 23 yards on 19 carries. The Cougars completed only three passes out of 12 attempts, but those three completions went for 116 yards and one touchdown.

Yuma had been putting up fairly big numbers in the passing game in recent weeks, but took a step back against the Cougars, completing seven of 21 attempts for 53 yards and one touchdown.

“That was a night we needed to connect and we just didn’t do it,” Sheffield said. “That was tough. We had a lot built around that.”

Burlington opened the scoring on its first possession with a 77-yard pass from Case Rieber to Jonanh Hanson. The Cougars went up 12-0 late in the first quarter on Braden Witzel’s one-yard run, and made it 20-0 early in the second on Chris Gamboa’s nine-yard run followed by a 2-point conversion run.

Yuma finally got something going midway through the second when Gianni Trejo came up with an interception.

A Chase McCreath 11-yard run set up a 17-yard touchdown pass to Edgar Bustillos three plays later, pulling Yuma to within 20-6.

Victor Perez cuts back against a Burlington defender, last Friday in Yuma. (Jake Rayl)

A roughing the passer penalty helped keep Burlington’s next drive alive, but the defense still rose up to force a turnover on downs.

The Indians could not move the ball, but at least looked like they would trail by just two scores at halftime. However, a bad snap on the punt resulted in Burlington taking over on Yuma’s 8-yard line 40 seconds before halftime.

Sure enough, Rieber scored on the next play, and the Cougars got the 2-point conversion for a 28-6 lead at halftime.

Yuma had a good drive going in the third quarter, but penalties stymied that momentum. Burlington then embarked on a long drive capped by a five-yard run by Taylor Scott with 35 seconds left in the quarter.

Burlington then added one more score, a Kaden Meurisse 48-yard run, early in the fourth.

“Where we’ve been real strong, they gouged us,” Sheffield said. “The offense kept the defense on the field too long…they were very efficient.”

Yuma had only five first downs, compared to 20 for Burlington.

McCreath completed six of 20 passes for 44 yards and one touchdown. Joey Ross completed his only pass for nine yards late in the game. Bustillos had three catches for 32 yards, Trejo two for 10 yards, Brandon Blacker one for nine yards, and Victor Mendoza one for two yards. Bustillos ran for 14 yards, Lynch 12, and Rolando Caraveo six. Burlington had two players with more than 100 yards rushing, Rieber with 128, and Meurisse with 127.

Defensively, Mendoza was in on 12 total tackles, Tarren McDonald 11, Trejo, Bustillos, and Lynch eight each, Diego Gordo seven, Dillon White six, Roland Caraveo and Gabe Schulte two each, and Gustavo Mosqueda, Kyler Goeglein, Jonathan Rascon and Jacob Long one each.

While a disappointing loss, the young Indians — only two seniors played Friday night — have a chance to still finish on a positive note in the season’s final weeks.

“We need to finish strong,” Sheffield said.