That Hotchkiss was seeded 10th in this year's state 2A football playoffs seems to be working in its favor. The seeding was lower than expected, said head coach Zac Lemon.
"But we'll take what we can get."
Because of the seeding, the Bulldogs traveled 300 miles one way to their first-round game against No. 7 Wiggins, the team that eliminated Hotchkiss in the 2011 semifinals. Wiggins scored less than a minute into the game, and then the Bulldogs put up 48 unanswered points for the win.
That put No. 2 Limon, which had crushed Rye a week earlier, on the cross-state bus to Hotchkiss last Saturday. The last time the two teams met, in 2009, Limon won by seven to advance to the semifinals. The Badgers, the team with the most state titles regardless of class, haven't won a championship since 2005, and were undefeated heading into Saturday's game.
Following a less-than-stellar start by the offense that included six turnovers, the Bulldogs trailed 14-7 at the half. Their sole touchdown came with less than a minute remaining in the half when Trenton Tamayo carried a handoff from Josh Hardin two yards for the score; Colton Farmer followed up with the PAT.
Things didn't look any brighter at the start of the second half, when just six minutes into the third quarter, Hotchkiss trailed 26-7.
A combination of lucky breaks and big plays resulted in two touchdowns in the span of less than 30 seconds. "All it takes is one or two big plays and then all of the sudden we have momentum and focus," said Lemon. "They're not an unpredictable team. They do what they do and they're good at it." Hotchkiss needed one big adjustment. "We know that if we take care of the ball we're pretty unstoppable."
In the last 18 minutes of play Hotchkiss scored on six consecutive possessions to win the game, 26-47.
Can we stop calling them the No. 10 seed now?
The Bulldogs have been deep in the playoffs the last two seasons. They've been here before, and overcame a 14-point half-time deficit in last year's quarterfinal game before racking up 42 unanswered second-half points to defeat Resurrection Christian.
In the first half against Limon the defense was doing its job, and the offense was moving the ball. They just couldn't hang on to it long enough to capitalize. The team was somber as they headed to the locker room at half time. "Our coaches told us we have to figure it out," said running back Jacobe Galley.
Things appeared to go from bad to worse after Limon quarterback Gavin Liggett connected on a five-yard touchdown pass play to Tyler Koehn, his second TD of the day, to up the Limon lead to 20-7 less than 5 minutes into the third period.
On the Bulldogs' next possession, Limon then recovered a fumble on the Hotchkiss 25, and again, Liggett connected with Koehn in the end zone to make the score 26-7. The PAT failed.
At half-time, said Galley, the coaches told the team they needed to "flip that switch." At that point, said Galley, "That's exactly what we did." On the next first down, Galley took the handoff 43 yards to the Limon 15. On first down, Conner Beard caught a pass from Josh Hardin on the Badger two, and walked in for the score. A Farmer PAT put the score at 26-14, with just over four minutes remaining in the third.
The Bulldogs got a break, recovering a Limon fumble just outside the Badger 20 that set up a Trenton Tamayo TD run. Another PAT by Farmer brought them to within five.
Duncan Turnbull, who was in for an injured T Hicks, put pressure on Liggett, and a sack by Joe Boyle pushed the Badgers back inside their own 10. Limon, already running low on time-outs, was forced to punt on fourth and 20.
A long gain by Tamayo set up an 18-yard touchdown run by Galley to give Hotchkiss a one-point lead with 25 seconds remaining in the third.
Early in the fourth, Hardin carried the ball 37 yards up the left side for a touchdown and Farmer's PAT gave them an eight-point lead. Galley set up his second touchdown of the day when a Limon pass was tipped and he made a diving interception inside the Limon 20.
Limon was unable to move the ball and Hotchkiss took over on downs. With 2:38 remaining, Galley scored the final TD of the day. The game ended on an interception by defensive back Dustin Head with 6 seconds left on the clock.
Galley ended the game with 18 carries for 159 yards and three TDs, and Tamayo added 82 yards and 12 points. Including his sack, Boyle was in on nine tackles, and T Hicks had seven before being sidelined in the second half with an injury. Sophomore Devan Rupe had seven unassisted tackles. Farmer hit five of his six PATs.
Hardin completed four passes for 37 yards and one interception. "In the huddle and throughout the course of the game we said no matter what happens we're going to play together as a family and have fun," said Hardin. "We never gave up. I think it was a big confidence-builder for us because we didn't unravel and get down on each other."
Hardin looks forward to the re-match with Cedaredge, which handed the Bulldogs their sole conference loss early in the season. "If there's anything that we've learned, it's that you can't take anyone for granted. We won, but we're only guaranteed the next game. We're going to have to play our best."blog comments powered by Disqus