Passing attack stays potent in loss
One slogan spotted stated ‘Friendliest Town Around.’
Another advertised ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors.’
Both certainly seem inviting enough to any visitor, and Nick Herrera, like many Bobcats aboard the bus, probably saw the former on a sign as State Highway 92 descended into the destination.
He was likely one of only a few who didn’t see the latter.
Nobody, especially head coach Lupe Huerta, wanted to see that; it adorned each side of the North Fork Ambulance into which his junior tight end/defensive end was unfortunately inserted with 5:19 left in the third quarter – and Ignacio behind by just ten – of what ended up a 32-14 loss, Friday, Aug. 22 in Hotchkiss.
Also downed after a Bulldog’s foot compressed his neck during the same play’s pileup, but able to eventually walk off, sophomore d-liner Michael Cruz first saw his teammate into the rescue ride, then returned to an re-inspired huddle of hungry Bobcats – ready to finish ‘Zero Week’ with authority.
And HHS boss Mike Sirko, who’d started each of the last two seasons at 2A Aspen against IHS, knew how important it was for his own side to not only finish likewise the contest, but that very drive.
“Their kids … they’re playing tougher. Last year I felt they were a much-improved team, and I think they’re improved this year!” he said. “I mean, we struggled and they did some good things – they had some injuries, and that takes the wind out of your sails, but I will tell you … they’re on the right track.”
“We did some good things and we did some bad things,” admitted IHS senior quarterback Adison Jones. “But we moved the ball good against a playoff team; we were in there with them. It just felt good.”
Led by the three-pronged ground attack of QB Devan Rupe and running backs Wade Katzdorn and Duncan Turnbull, the Dogs chewed up nearly 300 clock-killing yards’ worth of their already chewed-up field, and capped the crucial 9-play, 45-yard march with a four-yard Turnbull touchdown (his third of the night) and two-point Katzdorn conversion for a 26-8 advantage with 3:28 left in the third.
That push set up by junior Cole Carvill’s interception of Jones, on the third play after Hotchkiss (1-0, 0-0 Western Slope) completed an 8-play, 69-yard surge beginning the second half with a 13-yard Turnbull run – Herrera deflected Rupe’s two-point pass attempt – for the referenced 18-8 lead, the Cats had seen enough to know they’d seen too much.
To that extent, most vocal during the aforementioned team gathering was Miguel ‘Mike’ Perez, and the senior RB responded by turning a short Jones toss into a 17-yard score with 11:46 left in the game, finishing a 9-play, 71-yard assault – in which IHS (0-1, 0-0 Southern Peaks) ran the ball just once.
“Oh it felt great! Just to be able to lead the guys over for one more touchdown,” said Perez. “To get that fire started – we’re a team, we’ve got to play as a team. It’s not just one person that sets it off.”
But after Rupe disrupted Jones’ two-point try, leaving the score 26-14, one person off – as in junior defensive back Chase Sanchez, drawn offsides by Rupe’s cadence under center – on a Bulldog 4th-and-1 at the Ignacio 22 allowed HHS to prolong, and complete an 11-play [all runs], 72-yard response with a two-yard Katzdorn dive [Jones blocked senior Michael Nault’s point-after kick] and only 7:10 remaining.
“In the second half I felt we kind of got it together a little more,” Sirko said. “The one thing that I was concerned about a little in the first half was that we went out there and then we kind of lost our momentum all of a sudden.”
And just as Jones’ arm had found Hayes earlier to get the Cats on the scoreboard, cutting Hotchkiss’ lead to 12-8 [Jones hit Herrera for the two-pointer] with 2:56 left in the second, air raids – Jones was unofficially 21-of-43 for 228 yards – allowed Ignacio two late, desperate series in the fourth.
Receivers found plenty of open space – Hayes caught 12 balls for 111 yards unofficially – as well, but first-game drops and timing issues prevented IHS from posting any more points, led to two (of four) turnovers-on-downs, and Rupe then knelt twice from the Bobcat 21 to consume the final 43.8 seconds.
“Overall I’m proud of them,” said Huerta. “Just have a lot of work to do. We had some opportunities and just didn’t take advantage.”
“The passing game, like last year…we can pass left and right – never had an issue,” he continued. “Pass protection? The line did fantastic; I don’t think Adison got touched [other than] a couple times!”
The Cats pass game is flowing, and the run offense will come along as the linemen improve, Perez said.
“All the kids know…Zero Week? You’re not in the best condition in the world and everything else,” said Sirko in practical agreement, “but that’s something we’ve got to deal with and get better with.”
Ignacio’s home opener, and official unveiling to the public of IHS Field’s new surface, awaits them next – as will visiting Paonia – in 2014’s Week 2 on Friday, Sept. 5 with kickoff at 7 p.m.
“It’ll be good,” said Hayes of facing the reigning Class 1A State Champions. “To be the best you’ve got to take out the best, so that’s what we’re going to try to do!”
PHS (0-0, 0-0 WSC) began its title defense Aug. 29th at home against Monte Vista (0-0, 0-0 SPC).