GYPSUM — Big plays were Eagle Valley’s undoing Friday night in a 34-14 loss to Delta at Hot Stuff Stadium in Gypsum.
The visiting Panthers popped off the big plays when necessary and also slowed Riley Rowles and Eagle Valley’s rushing attack as the Devils (2-1 overall and 1-1 in the 3A Slope) fell from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Eagle Valley started this game merrily enough with Rowles running wild. The junior accounted for 56 of the Devils’ 66 yards on their opening drive. He plowed in from 3 yards out to give Eagle Valley a 6-0 lead.
The first out of Delta’s bag of tricks was the halfback option. Delta’s Derek Horn took the pitch, but squared up and hit a wide-open Devin Williams for 31 yards.
In the second quarter, Eagle Valley had Delta backed into a third-and-12, but Panthers quarterback Cade Gafford rolled out and found Williams for a 48-yard touchdown strike.
On Delta’s next drive, Gafford to Eian Baier for 35 yards got the Panthers deep into Devils’ territory. Running back Tyler Sandoval took it the rest of the way for a 20-7 lead.
Just before halftime, Eagle Valley had Delta in a third-and-10 on the Devils’ 35, seemingly bottled up again. Yet Sandoval broke off a 22-yard run to move the sticks. Gafford to Brown for 3 yards upped the Panthers’ lead to 27-7.
Focus on Rowles
Compounding Eagle Valley’s difficulties was the fact that Delta’s defense keyed on Rowles. Without any other threats out of the backfield or a credible passing game, Rowles saw a whole bunch of Delta white and green every time he touched the ball.
The Devils seemed to have a golden opportunity to get back into the game when Delta mishandled the second-half kickoff. The Panthers started on their own 1-yard line. Eagle Valley’s defense got a nice three-and-out and the Devils got the ball on the Delta 41, but could do nothing with it.
The Devils’ offense finally got cranking midway through the second half. They hurried up the pace a bit and mounted a 15-play drive that included nice runs from Luis Chavez, Victor Avila and Rowles. Rowles finished it with a 6-yard rumble.
Delta replied with a back-breaking drive — 12 plays, all on the ground and capped by Sandoval’s second touchdown.
Hoping for payback
Eagle Valley had hoped that Friday would be some payback for last year’s game at Delta. The Devils led the Panthers last season, 21-6, at the half, were plus-four in turnover and lost a heartbreaker, 25-21.
The Devils head to Arvada on Thursday for a nonconference game, while Delta hosts Moffat County on Friday.
Before the game, both teams observed a moment of silence to honor Cedaredge running back Reid Gates, who died Monday of carbon-monoxide poisoning.
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