In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the Pueblo South Colts won a total of three football games.
During that same stretch Pueblo West won 16 games, a Foothills League championship, and advanced to the state semifinals.
In this 2013 season, the South Colts have already won eight games, including the cross-town showdown — and battle for the Foothills championship — last Friday night at Dutch Clark Stadium.
Statistically, Pueblo West actually won the battles upfront, both offensively and defensively.
They outrushed the Colts by 178 yards. Remarkably, the Cyclones even had slightly more passing yards against one of the state’s best passing teams.
But the Colts won the all-important battles for turnovers and field position, and they ultimately won the war, 31-21.
South’s outstanding kicking game proved to be a key factor as the Colts kickoff and punt teams made the Cyclones offense work “uphill” all night. The Cyclones started eight of out of their nine offensive possessions inside their own 25 yard line.
Conversely, the Cyclones inability to execute any successful onside kicks (0-4), and a failed fake punt attempt allowed the potent Colts offense to work “downhill” for the majority of the game. South capitalized on these miscues—and a back breaking interception—by putting together relatively quick scoring drives from just 23, 30, 45 and 51 yards out.
The Cyclones offense was forced to go to the air more than they would have liked.
Senior quarterback Zac Drury and his receivers did make some big plays (two for touchdowns).
But Duruy had to scramble for his life during most of his 13 official passing attempts, and the defensive pressure also led to two costly interceptions.
A real momentum killer came with the Cyclones trailing 14-7 at the end of the first half.
Somewhat ironically, South’s talented punter, Garrett Krage, (who also plays defensive back), added insult to injury by intercepting a Drury pass and returning it to the Cyclones 23 yard line with just 16 seconds remaining in the half.
On the very next play the Colts quarterback Nathan Spinuzzi did what he does best, tossing a 23 yard touchdown strike to Devin Valdez.
The Cyclones heads were down as they went into the locker room trailing 21-7.
Pueblo West showed its true character and resolve by in the second half.
“We came out and fought hard in the second half,” head coach Monte Pinkerton noted.
“It would have been easy for our guys to let down after their touchdown right at the end of the half.” “Our guys played hard for four quarters.”
The Cyclones got back in the game when Travis Meyer willed his way to a touchdown reception by ripping a Duruy pass from the defender’s hands at the goal line. With the failed PAT kick, the score stood at Colts 21-Cyclones 13 still early in the third quarter.
But with another missed onside kick opportunity, the Colts again had a short field to navigate. Spinuzzi answered with another touchdown toss to Valdez. Colts 28-Cyclones 13.
Spinuzzi, who is also the place kicker for the Colts, bombed yet another kickoff out of the end zone, and the Cyclones went back to work from their own 20 yard line. As always, the Cyclones celebrated the start of the fourth quarter, confident that they could win this critical quarter and still have a shot to defend their Foothills League championship. The westsiders battled, and closed the gap to 28-21 on another acrobatic touchdown pass, this time from Drury to his wide receiver Tristen Ross with 7:34 remaining in the game.
The Cyclones failed to recover the ensuing onside kick, and Spinuzzi delivered the knockout punch by kicking a 31 yard field goal.
Colts 31-Cyclones 21.
After tipping his cap to the South coaches and players for executing a solid game plan, Coach Pinkerton’s thoughts quickly shifted to the next item of business for his team—winning their way into the playoffs.
“I am very proud of our guys”, Pinkerton asserted.
“And we are still in a good position for the regular season finale.”
The Cyclones, 6-3, 4-2, will still make the playoffs if they can remain among the top 16 teams in the MaxPreps/CHSAA wild card rankings.
Pueblo West currently sits at number 14, with 83.778 points.
Yes, this wild card ranking system resembles the infamously complex BCS rankings in major college football—and no, I will not bore you by attempting to explain it.
Suffice it to say that the computers care that two of Cyclones losses have come at the hands of the No. 1, and No. 2 teams in the wildcard rankings (Montrose and Pueblo South). So the Cyclones can still “control their own destiny” by beating Mesa Ridge this Friday at home. The Grizzlies come into the final regular season game at 4-5 overall, and 2-4 in Foothills League play.
Start time for the West and Mesa Ridge game is 7 p.m. at the Pueblo West High School stadium, Friday.
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