Football: Cowboys rein in Mustangs at home
The West Grand Mustangs fought valiantly Friday night during their Homecoming game but were unable to overcome injuries to two key players and lost 22-0 to the Meeker Cowboys.
On the opening kickoff, both Jake Motz and Cory Davis were slow to get off the turf. Motz sustained what appeared to be a knee injury, while Davis was felled by a lower right leg injury.
Motz did not return to the contest and, while Davis played the rest of the first half on defense, he was clearly hampered by his injury.
As is the case with most small high school teams, key players play multiple positions, which is certainly the case with Davis and Motz. On defense, Sky Handyside and Connor Widener stepped in at end and linebacker. Tim Ritschard assumed Davis’ punting duties, and Widener returned kickoffs instead of Motz.
Throughout the year, Davis and Motz have alternated at the tailback position. Neither was to have a carry on Friday night.
The versatile Louie Farrell, who usually plays fullback, stepped in at tailback while Widener played fullback.
All of this lineup changing had to be done “on-the-fly” as the Mustang coaching staff made adjustments and the players responded to those changes. Despite that, the changes went virtually without a hitch as several Mustang players earned their varsity stripes.
Meeker took the opening kickoff and returned it to their own 30-yard line. At the beginning, it appeared that the Cowboys would be able to score as many points as they wanted. Under the direction of quarterback Tyler Matrisciano and behind the bruising runs of Anthony Mazzola, the Cowboys employed both the pass and the run on a drive to the West Grand 5-yard line.
The Mustang defense then settled in and refused to budge. Aided by a 5-yard penalty against Meeker, West Grand stuffed one run and then batted down two passes in the end zone.
Ray Vasquez knocked away the first pass, and Mackenzie Widener broke up the second. On fourth down, Handyside broke through the line and sacked Matrisciano to thwart the scoring threat.
That goal-line stand set the tone for the rest of the first half as neither team was able to score. The Mustang defense was particularly stout as Meeker never threatened to score again in the first half.
West Grand’s offense was never able to sustain a drive, however, as the Mustangs searched for a way to generate yards without two of its main weapons.
Farrell was able to break off an occasional run for positive yardage, but the Cowboy defense came up with stops when it was necessary.
The half ended with Mackenzie Widener for West Grand intercepting a Matrisciano pass and running out the clock as he returned the pick for about 23 yards.
Halftime gave both teams time to make adjustments to see which squad would earn an important Western Slope League victory. At the beginning of the evening, there was a logjam at the top of the league standings with Grand Valley on top with no losses and West Grand, Hayden and Meeker all at the next level with one loss apiece.
The Mustangs took the second half kickoff and found some offensive life. Mackenzie Widener found Farrell with a pass for 10 yards and then hooked up with Marshall Kraker for a pass of 12 yards.
Unfortunately, Meeker stripped Farrell of the ball on the next run and the Cowboys recovered the fumble in Cowboy territory.
Finding life in its option offense, Meeker moved down the field and were able score when Matrisciano raced in from 10 yards out. The pass for a PAT conversion fell incomplete as the Mustang defense applied pressure and forced an errant throw.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Cowboy defense held and, after a punt, moved quickly downfield again, scoring both a touchdown and a two-point conversion to secure a 14-0 lead.
On the next possession by the Mustangs, Meeker’s Brock Campbell snared an interception on a Mackenzie Widener pass and the Cowboys were on the move again, with the game still in the third quarter.
The final frame started just prior to Meeker’s Mitch Jacob scoring both a touchdown and a two-point conversion to make the score 22-0 in favor of the visiting Cowboys.
Those three quick touchdown drives were an aberration in game that otherwise saw the two teams play evenly. After the third score, the Mustang defense again held its own, though the West Grand offense was nearly able to put points on the board at the end of the game.
On that final drive, Farrell had two 15-yard runs, Connor Widener had a 15-yard run and Mackenzie Widener added a 5-yard run and one completion to Drew Klotz.
The game ended with Farrell taking a pitch and then throwing back to Mackenzie Widener for an 8-yard gain.
For the evening, Farrell had 96 yards on 21 carries, while Connor Widener had 19 yards on three carries.
The Mustang’s record is now 3-2 in league play and 4-3 for the season.
The West Grand Mustangs round out their season with a tough road game against Buena Vista on Friday night and the regular season finale against Paonia at home a week from Friday. Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
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Local commercial rafting companies remain unsure if or for how long they’ll be able to guide trips this summer down the traditional 6-mile portion of the Blue River north of Silverthorne.