Big games are won by the team that makes big plays and avoids mistakes.
The showdown between the 3rd ranked Pueblo West Cyclones and the 4th ranked Montrose Indians featured a lot of big plays for both sides.
But the Cyclones made too many mistakes, and they dropped their home opener, 23-14.
The Cyclones knew they would have their hands full in their final non-conference game.
Coach Pinkerton and his staff welcome these early-season challenges against the state’s best teams because it is the best way to prepare for the rugged Foothills League schedule, and a return to the playoffs.
And while they are clearly disappointed to have lost, the Cyclones can point to a lot of positive performances in this game.
The offensive line continued to dominate.
Cody Ortiz, Brenton Martin, Josh Medeiros, Malik Jones, Keith Hed and Dean Thompson paved the way for the Cyclones backs to rush for 305 yards on 52 carries. Senior quarterback Zac Drury led the team in rushing with 176 yards on 21 carries.
Sophomore Shane Larson got his first varsity start at running back, replacing the injured Cameron Clough. Larson rushed for 78 yards on 14 carries, and added 79 yards on four kick-off returns for a total of 157 all-purpose yards. Fullback Kaden Wills added 47 yards rushing and 10 yards receiving, and Ryan Olson ran once for 4 yards and had one reception for 15 yards.
The Cyclones defense stood tall against a very powerful and fast offense.
West defenders held one of the state’s leading rushers, Mike Rocha, to just 95 yards, (24 yards in the second half), and they forced two big turnovers with their backs against the goal line.
No doubt the Cyclones also learned some valuable lessons from this game.
Perhaps most importantly they learned how to play from behind.
Montrose struck quickly.
On the first play from scrimmage, Rocha sprinted to the outside and raced 63 yards to the Cyclones 4 yard line.
Rocha promptly caught a touchdown pass on the next play to put the Indians on top, 7-0.
On their next possession the Indians kicker Lucas Ruiz-Diaz connected on a 33-yard field goal, extending the lead to 10-0.
Despite being in an unfamiliar position, the Cyclones did not panic.
Their offensive line packed a lunch, and quarterback Zac Drury led his team on an impressive 80-yard scoring drive.
Drury did it with his feet and his arm, running for 24 yards on one play, passing to tight end Dean Thomson for a 25 yard gain on another, running for a 6-yard touchdown, and — for good measure — running for the successful two-point conversion.
Still trailing 10-8 late in the second quarter, the swarming Cyclones defense forced the Indians to go to the air.
Junior defensive back Cameron Vaughan intercepted a DeVincentis pass with only 56 seconds remaining in the first half.
On the very next play, Drury broke loose for another long run, and looked like he would score the go-ahead touchdown.
But the Indians knocked the ball out at the 10 yard line, and the Cyclones went to the locker room trailing for the first time this season.
Both teams made successful adjustments at half-time. Montrose counter-attacked by running outside of the tackles. With a fresh set of legs, the Indians Peter Shearer rumbled for 41 yards on the first drive of the second half.
Nick Foster completed it with a 5 yard touchdown run to give the Indians a 16-8 lead.
But the Cyclones pulled themselves off the mat again. After a 28 yard kickoff return from Sophomore Shane Larson, Drury called his own number.
It was the perfect call since the Indians had loaded the box with 10 players to stop the Cyclones running game.
Drury ran off his center’s hip, slipped into the second level, looked up, and saw nothing but 66 yards of brand new Field Turf between himself and the goal line.
The home crowd went wild as he sprinted to the end zone.
The Cyclones came up just short on the two-point try, but had pulled to within two at 16-14.
Momentum remained with the Cyclones on the ensuing kickoff.
Two Indians penalties allowed the Cyclones Brandon Summer to kick from the Indians 40 yard line. Summer delivered a text-book on-side-kick that bounced high and right into the arms of his teammate, Josh Casias.
The Cyclones were already in field goal range, and in a great position to take the lead.
But then the wheels fell off.
The Montrose defense turned up the heat and sacked Drury for a 22 yard loss.
The Cyclones were out of field goal range—and out of sorts for the remainder of the game.
A series of penalties late in the game were just part of the Cyclones undoing.
On a fourth down play deep in their own territory, the Cyclones appeared to have held the Indians to only a field goal attempt.
But a personal foul gave the Indians new life.
Rocha rumbled into the end zone from 11 yards out, on the next play and the Indians had a two possession lead.
A blocked punt and an interception on the final two series sealed the Cyclones fate.
Some may say it was the “Friday the 13th Curse”.
Perhaps it was.
But one thing is certain.
The Cyclone coaches and players won’t be making any excuses.
They will learn from their mistakes and build on their strengths.
They will extenuate the positive and remain focused on their ultimate goal.
You can take it to the bank. Come full-moon or high water ... the Cyclones will be ready for their first league game at Widefield this Friday.
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