By Wayne Crick
Meeker has owned the top spot in the 1A Western Slope League all season and is a perennial powerhouse that has dominated play over the past few years. The Cowboys, ranked third in Class 1A, scored first in last Saturday’s showdown in Hotchkiss but lost the game 14-8. Hotchkiss, ranked No. 9 in Class 1A, used a stingy defense to keep the Cowboys offense off the field for a good portion of the game and limited them to minimal damage when they did have the ball in the loss.
Meeker received the game’s opening kickoff and began its first possession on its own 22-yard line. Cowboy senior Jeremy Woodward ran the ball six times in the opening drive for Meeker and finished off the 78-yard drive with a 38-yard run for the game’s first six points. A pass from quarterback Ryan Phelan to sophomore Casey Brink was good for a two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead for the Cowboys with 6:46 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs used junior Mordecai White’s 33-yard kickoff return to start Hotchkiss’ first drive of the game at its own 35. With White getting most of the handoffs, Hotchkiss moved the ball from its own 35-yard line to the Cowboy’s 34 before an illegal block in the back set the ball back to Meeker’s 46. From there Hotchkiss was unable to move the ball any closer and was forced to punt.
Meeker began its next drive from its own 26 and was on its own 41 when the first quarter ended. The Cowboys had the ball at Hotchkiss’ 45 when Phelan threw an interception to Hotchkiss’ White, who returned the ball to Meeker’s 17-yard line for its next possession.
The Bulldogs capitalized quickly on the turnover with a Yahir Chavez handoff to White for 17 yards and a Hotchkiss score with 10:25 left before halftime. A try for a 2-point conversion failed and left Meeker ahead, 8-6.
Hotchkiss began its next possession on its own 20-yard line following a helmet-to-helmet penalty on the punt return. White toted the ball five times in the Hotchkiss drive for 34 of the 80-yard drive with junior Drayden Taylor getting the final four yards on the 13th play of the drive. Taylor got the 2-point conversion for the Bulldogs on an off tackle play to give Hotchkiss a 14-8 lead that would hold up the remainder of the way.
Hotchkiss coach, Curtis Hintz, was pleased with his team’s win but also noted, “We shot ourselves in the foot by not getting into the end zone in the third quarter.”
The Bulldogs had partially blocked a Phelan punt early in the period and had good field position at the Cowboy’s 30 to start their second possession of the quarter. A first down fumble at the 20 cost the Bulldogs four yards that they could not get back and lost the ball on downs on a fourth and 12 from the 22-yard line.
Hintz was more than excited by the play of his big linemen and explained they had bought into their roles of being the “big nasties.” Hintz’s reference was to the play of junior Carter Neff, sophomore Sam Ware, junior Coulson Hollembeak, junior Dakota Shelden and senior Christian Matus. “These boys played well today.”
“The key to this win was our team believing in themselves. They didn’t even flinch when Meeker scored that first touchdown and responded by scoring and winning the game,” said Hintz.
Hotchkiss didn’t get much out of its passing game with Chavez 0 for 5 and no yards. The run-game produced the bulk of Hotchkiss’ offensive yardage with White carrying the ball (unofficially) 13 times for 80 yards and one touchdown on a 17-yard run in the second quarter. Taylor finished the game with 44 yards on six carries and a touchdown on a 4-yard carry in the second quarter. In all, the Bulldogs (unofficially) had 27 carries for 184 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Meeker finished the game with 182 yards rushing and 98 yards passing for a total of 280 yards of offense. Woodward finished the game with 100 yards rushing on 15 carries and the lone Meeker touchdown. Phelan had 50 yards on seven carries and threw the ball 24 times with 12 completions and 98 yards for a total of 148 yards for the Cowboys. Kelton Turner finished the day with 32 yards on seven carries.
Defensively, Hall had the most tackles against Meeker with six solo and eight assists for a total of 12 tackles. Taylor was Hotchkiss’ next best tackler with 12 followed by Neff’s 10 and Cochran’s eight. White, Coulson Hollembeak and Matus finished the game with six tackles each.
The Bulldogs’ next test will be in Olathe (2-1, 1-1), a 40-8 winner over Paonia’s Eagles (0-3, 0-2). Hotchkiss will look to keep its winning ways intact over the always scrappy Pirates at Wilson Field on Friday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m.