The final day of a very long week for the Cyclones football coaches and players was game day.
And last Friday’s pre-game routine was anything but [routine].
Many of the Pueblo West players and coaches spent Friday morning and early afternoon at the memorial service for their former teacher and friend, Lizzy Marino.
A few short hours later, the team took the field in Canon City. As it turned out, they were walking into a meat grinder at the worst possible time.
Pueblo West won the coin toss, but lost every other facet of the game.
The usually dominate West offensive line was simply outnumbered and out played by a Tiger’s team that was holding a grudge from last season’s 58-10 loss to the Cyclones. The Tigers got their revenge, upsetting the Cyclones 14-7.
With the exception of one big play, Canon City’s defense held the potent Cyclones running attack in check.
They did it by “loading the box” (putting nine players within three yards of the line of scrimmage), and “bringing the house” (blitzing linebackers and cornerbacks) all night.
The Tigers sold out to stop the run; basically daring the Cyclones to beat them through the air.
But Cyclones opted to stick with the power running game, and count on wearing down the Tigers in the fourth quarter.
And why not, since the Cyclones were averaging a whopping 395 yards rushing in their first five games.
But every yard came hard for the Cyclones in this game — with the exception of one play.
Trailing 6-0 early in the second quarter, quarterback Zac Drury finally found a small seam, and used his breakaway speed to outrun the Tigers defensive backs for a 57 yard touchdown.
It quickly silenced the raucous Canon crowd, and made everyone wonder if we were in for a repeat of last year’s game.
Unfortunately though, Drury’s run was the highlight of the game for the Cyclones, who spent the rest of the night fighting for field position and fighting to overcome their mistakes.
West’s offense would muster only 125 total yards on the next 33 rushing attempts.
Junior tailback Cameron Vaughan scratched and clawed for 36 tough yards on eight carries.
Full back Kaden Wills was held to just 11 yards rushing on seven carries, and sophomore Carter Ortiz was limited to just 12 yards on three carries.
Defensively the Cyclones were their usual stingy selves against the run, yielding only 66 yards on 29 carries.
Junior linebacker Brandon Summer continued to fly all over the field and make tackles for losses.
Senior defensive lineman Trevor Encinias also had an outstanding game, giving no running room to the Tigers dangerous running back, Tyler Templeton. With only one successful onside kick recovery again this week, West’s defensive unit continued to rise to the challenge of having to play “half-field football.”
But the Cyclones defense could not contain the Tigers passing attack, led by senior quarterback Logan Nethercot and tight end Logun Javernick.
The dangerous passing tandem connected early and often to sustain drives, and keep the Cyclones offense on the sidelines.
Nethercot finished the night 16-for-24 for 194 yards and one touchdown.
But his biggest completion came on a fake punt in the fourth quarter that all but sealed the deal for the Tigers.
It was a very hard night for all Cyclones players, coaches and fans.
But it was just a football game—and only one football game at that.
The Cyclones can still defend their Foothills League title, and reach all of their goals for postseason play.
They can hold their heads high, and know that we have tremendous respect and admiration for their character and courage.
With the help of their coaches, crazy-loyal fans and the supportive community, the Cyclones football team can make tomorrow’s homecoming game one to remember.
Let’s lift them up by packing the Pueblo West High School stadium Friday. Kickoff against Palmer Ridge is at 7 p.m.
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