Rough first-round exit for Huskies
LAKEWOOD – The sun set at halftime of Battle Mountain’s first-round state-playoff game against D’Evelyn at Trailblazer Stadium Saturday. And, somehow, with the sun went the Huskies’ season.
Battle Mountain looked superb in just about every facet of the game in the first half, building a commanding 31-7 lead at intermission, only to see it slip away in the final 24 minutes in a stunning 40-38 loss to the Jaguars.
“There’s nothing you can say, nothing,” said Huskies coach David Joyce, who was understandably-subdued. “”You have to wait until they can hear you again. Whatever you say now, they’re not going to hear it.”
And while it will take some time for Battle Mountain to digest this, D’Evelyn head coach Jeremy Bennett seemed equally shell-shocked, but in a good way.
“First, Battle Mountain’s a great team,” the Jaguars coach said. “They’ve got players over there who have been working for four years to get here and I’m sorry someone had to lose this game. The first half, we missed some wide-open guys and had a couple of tough penalties. They scored 31 points in the first half, right?”
Bennett said that in a way that suggested that D’Evelyn could also score a bunch of points in a half, which the Jaguars, in fact, did.
After being bottled up in the first half by the Huskies’ defense, D’Evelyn’s passing game came out with a vengeance in the third quarter. Jags quarterback Caleb Flack, who experienced a little bit of everything Saturday, fired a 48-yard strike to Connor Skelton to open the second half. Two plays later, he called his own number for a touchdown.
On the Huskies’ ensuing possession, Battle Mountain faced a third-and-15 from its 43. Quarterback Jake Engle dropped back to pass and D’Evelyn’s Alec Comito got the pick-six and the Huskies were leading just 31-21.
“We said we were a new team,” said Flack of his team at halftime. “I can’t remember a half like that. It was embarrassing. We knew we could play better.”
The Huskies went three-and out, but then Zach Guida intercepted Flack, setting up what seemed like a nice stabilizing drive from Battle Mountain. With all the usual suspects carrying the ball, Guida did the honors from eight yards out and the Huskies seemingly restored order with a 38-21 advantage with 1:39 left in the third.
D’Evelyn continued to charge with a brilliant touchdown pass from Flack to Matt Menard. In the coming weeks, there will be a lot of talk about flags and Huskies’ mistakes, but Flack did a miraculous job of getting off that pass given that the Huskies’ Timmy Licciardi crushed him as he threw. Consider this turning point No. 1.
Flack kept firing and pulled the Jaguars to within 38-34 with a 55-yard strike to Menard with 8:48 left – D’Evelyn missed the extra point.
The Huskies seemed to get a much-needed first down when Reeve Sanders motored for 16 yards, but he fumbled. (In fairness to Sanders, he did everything, but clean up the stadium after the game Saturday with three first-half touchdowns and three interceptions on defense.) Battle Mountain’s coaching staff argued to no avail that Sanders was down before he fumbled. That’s turning point No. 2.
By this point, D’Evelyn was rolling and needed just two plays to take the lead at 40-38. For the record, it was Flack to Skelton. After the touchdown, Flack looked up at the board and thought that his team was the one trailing by two, so D’Evelyn unsuccessfully went for the two-point conversion.
Though clearly taken aback by 35 second-half points from D’Evelyn, Battle Mountain was actually in position to win this game twice.
The Huskies got the ball with 6:47 left in regulation and the double-wing started to click. Battle Mountain got the ball on its 20 and methodically marched down the field. (On a somewhat-comic note, the Huskies’ fans were booing the refs for what they thought were bad spots short of first downs, but said placements simply kept the clock going as Battle Mountain continued to chew up ground.)
The Huskies got the ball down to the D’Evelyn 15 with a fresh set of downs and two minutes on the clock when they were flagged for a personal foul. (As much as Huskies fans voiced their displeasure, this call was correct.) And that was turning point No. 3. The drive stalled and Battle Mountain had to call on Heivan Garcia for a 40-yard field goal. Though he made one from the same distance in the first half, this one was short.
“We didn’t get the same push offensively in the second half, as we did in the first half,” Joyce said. “Reeve was cramping the entire second half because he was playing defense too, and didn’t have the same burst, but we were still were moving the ball. Penalties hurt us at the wrong time – holding, false starts, personal fouls. We didn’t get those all year.”
Battle Mountain used some good defense and its timeouts and got the ball back on its 38 for one last gasp. Engle hit Sanders for 12 yards getting the Huskies to midfield. Engle then had Guida all alone on the left side, but just overthrew him. On the next play, Engle was sacked and fumbled. (Joyce and company felt that Engle’s arm was going forward and, therefore, an incomplete pass.) D’Evelyn’s Zach Wendt fell on the ball, ending the game.
Making this turnaround all the more startling was how well Battle Mountain played in the first half. The defense had D’Evelyn covered, and the double-wing was clicking.
Sanders rolled 62 yards to the house on the Huskies’ first drive. D’Evelyn tied it at seven late in the first, but the Huskies were dictating the tempo.
That showed itself in the second quarter when Battle Mountain erupted for 24 points. Sanders picked Flack for the second time in the half, and the Huskies methodically marched 12 plays for 80 yards and a touchdown. Sanders scampered 19 yards to finish it.
With 4:52 left, the Huskies were backed up on their own 10 after D’Evelyn punt and a Battle Mountain penalty. No problem – 90 yards later, Sanders was in the end zone, and the Huskies were up 21-7.
Sanders struck again for the hat trick of interceptions on D’Evelyn’s next possession. Battle Mountain gave Sanders a rest, letting Chris Libertini plunge in from 1 yard out for a 28-7 lead.
A bad Jaguars punt in the waning seconds of the half put the Huskies in business on the D’Evelyn 31, and Battle Mountain picked up three more points on 40-yard boot from Garcia for a 31-7 halftime lead.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
Huskies 7 24 7 0 – 38
D’Evelyn 7 0 21 14 – 40
B – Reeve Sanders, 62-yard run, KG, 10:29
D – Caleb Fleck to Connor Skelton, 50-yard pass, KG, 2:37
B – Sanders, 19-yard run, KG, 6:09
B – Sanders, 90-yard run, KG, 4:52
B – Chris Libertini, 1-yard run, KG, 1:25
B – Heivan Garcia, 40-yard field goal, 0:01
D – Fleck, 1-yard run, KG, 11:05
D – Alec Comito, interception return, KG, 7:36
B – Zach Guida, 8-yard run, KG, 1:39
D – Fleck to Matt Menard, 32-yard pass, KG, 1:39
D – Fleck to Menard, 55-yard pass, KNG, 8:48
D – Fleck to Skelton, 10-yard pass, run failed, 6:47