The prescription for a high school football victory doesn't usually include surrendering an opening kickoff touchdown, fumbling away your first two possessions and trailing 12-0 after the first quarter.
The Hotchkiss Bulldogs recovered from all of that and more to beat Vail Christian 34-12 last Friday night on homecoming.
"It was one of those games where Vail Christian, to their credit, capitalized on some opportunities and made some plays," Hotchkiss coach Curtis Hintz said. "And our boys responded in the second half. Even though things weren't going our way, they responded in the second half and I was proud of our boys for that."
The Bulldogs fought their way back from the first quarter deficit and outscored the visiting Saints 34-0 the rest of the way.
"Coming in all summer and working our tails off, it was a big payout. It was a big deal for us to win homecoming," Wade Katzdorn said. The senior led the Bulldogs in rushing in each of the last three seasons and he had two scoring runs against Vail Christian.
"We definitely had to have a mental check and we realized we needed to go out and play football," Katzdorn said. "We can play at a way higher level than we've been playing and I think we just realized it was time to play football."
Kellen Kinsella returned the opening kickoff 65 yards right up the middle of the field for a score that put Vail Christian ahead 6-0 after 13 seconds ticked off the clock.
Hotchkiss fumbled its first two possessions and the Saints led 12-0 after Kinsella collected a 30-yard touchdown pass that was deflected right into his hands by Hotchkiss defender Braxton Trujillo.
The Bulldogs began to right the ship after Katzdorn ran in a 7-yard score four minutes into the second quarter. The Hotchkiss defense stopped Vail Christian on its ensuing drive, then Devan Curtis hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Colton DeLuzio and Hotchkiss led 13-12 at halftime.
Colton Peebles redeemed his two fumbles on the night with a 95-yard pick six less than a minute into the third quarter. Curtis ran home the 2-point conversion and Hotchkiss led for good 21-12.
The Bulldogs forced the Saints to punt and then reeled off a 17-play drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown plunge from Curtis and put Hotchkiss in command 28-12.
"It was nice to know that when we need to put together a drive that they can dig down and do it," Hintz said. "It's one of those things that we just need to make sure that we're ready to go from the first whistle to the last whistle."
Katzdorn completed the scoring in the contest when he took DeLuzio's pitch and ran 14 yards for the final Hotchkiss touchdown.
The Bulldogs finished the nonconference portion of their schedule at 3-1 and are preparing to face No. 7 Meeker in Hotchkiss Friday night at 7 p.m. in the first weekend of play in the 1A Western Slope League.
"We feel great. We can choose our own destiny in conference play," Katzdorn said. "Nobody has a win, nobody has a loss in conference right now. We're going to go after it and try to make our own destiny and win it."