The Bulldogs were without a Homecoming opponent after Center canceled its season due to a lack of players. They found a worthy opponent in the Montrose junior varsity squad.
The team knew that Montrose JV was not to be overlooked, said Bulldogs head coach, Curtis Hintz. The team has some 80 players on the roster and sent the best and biggest players they had available to compete against Hotchkiss. "They've got a lot of real solid kids and they're well-coached," said Hintz.
Senior running back Colton Peebles scored three Bulldogs' touchdowns. Peebles carried for 122 yards and one touchdown in 17 carries, and scored on the Bulldogs' opening kickoff reception.
Hotchkiss trailed only once in the game after the Indians scored early in the first quarter on a nine-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kai Hardin.
On the resulting kickoff, Peebles ran the ball back 83 yards for a touchdown, and Kaiya Firor's PAT gave the Dogs a 7-6 lead. That helped set the tone for the game, said Hintz. "Anytime he's got the ball in his hands he can take it the distance."
On the opening play of the second quarter, Eli Sawatski ended a Montrose drive on an interception. Hotchkiss turned the ball over on downs. Under pressure, the Indians fumbled the ball away. Peebles carried to inside the Montrose 10, and topped off the possession on a three-yard TD run with 7:06 remaining in the half. Firor's PAT was good and Hotchkiss led, 14-6.
A goal-line stand by the Bulldogs gave them possession at their own four-yard line with 1:32 remaining in the half.
Quarterback Chase Hiatt was four-for-seven for 44 yards and carried for two touchdowns. Early in the third quarter, Hiatt ran for a three-yard touchdown, with Firor kicking the PAT for a 21-6 lead. On the ensuing possession, Montrose capped a long drive on a one-yard touchdown on third down, failing on the conversion to trail, 21-12.
Montrose scored its final touchdown on a one-yard run by Cole Simmons with 11:06 remaining in the game.
Peebles had a 34-yard touchdown in the fourth, but the play was called back on a penalty. On fourth and long, Devin Curtis powered forward for a first down. It was one of two carries for Curtis, whose primary job for the night was to clear the way for Peebles. Montrose was stacking the box inside, said Coach Hintz, "and he made the most out of those touches."
The Bulldogs were unable to capitalize, but Curtis's first down allowed them to run time off the clock. With no timeouts remaining and 3:05 remaining in the game, Montrose took over on its own 15-yard line. In a fourth-and-four situation, Montrose was called for a delay of game. Hardin was pressured and threw an incomplete pass, giving the Bulldogs possession deep in their own territory to end the game.
Sawatzky had five solo and seven assisted tackles and one interception. Firor's three PATs were "huge" after missing them in the Bulldogs' Sept. 8 loss at Coal Ridge, said Hintz. "That was, ultimately, the difference in the game." A lot of credit goes to the guys up front, and to Hiatt, who set the ball, he said.
In the fourth quarter Montrose went for the onside kick, in part to try to get possession, and in part because it didn't want to put the ball back in the hands of Peebles. In those situations, said Hintz, "The guys responded well."
Hotchkiss will play away the next two games, beginning this Friday at 1 p.m. against Vail Christian (1-2, 1A Foothills League) at Battle Mountain High School. Hotchkiss will open Western Slope League play Sept. 29 at Meeker.