Turnovers hurt ‘Cats
Fumble return for TD shifts momentum to Durango in loss
Fruita Monument football coach Sean Mulvey’s philosophy on football provides insight into why the Wildcats have struggled this season.
“It’s simple mathematics,” Mulvey said. “Teams that turn the ball over lose. We can’t keep turning the ball over if we want to win games. It’s the reason we’ve lost this season.”
It was one particular turnover of the Wildcats’ six Friday night that led to a 17-10 loss to Durango in Southwestern Conference play at Stocker Stadium.
Fruita (3-6, 1-3 SWC) built a 10-0 lead by halftime behind a 30-yard field goal from Ty Taylor and a 12-yard scamper from quarterback Jacob Lynch.
A goal-line fumble by Lynch with 7:37 left in the third quarter and the subsequent 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Caleb Lloyd completely shifted momentum to the Demons.
Durango (7-1, 3-0 SWC) had fumbled four times in the first half and lost two of them. They also had a punt travel 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage and couldn’t generate any offense.
The return from Lloyd changed that.
“We couldn’t roll with the momentum swings,” Mulvey said. “That 99-yard fumble return, you gotta make your own breaks, and we don’t make our own breaks. It’s been our Achilles’ heel all year.”
The turnovers piled up for Fruita in the second half. Lynch threw two interceptions, and the Wildcats lost three fumbles.
A 2-yard run capped with a high leap into the end zone by Lawrence Mayberry early in the fourth quarter gave Durango a 14-10 lead, and a late field goal from 26 yards out by Blake Dunlap gave the Demons breathing room.
Durango’s defensive front seven came alive in the second half, severely limiting what Lynch could do through the air and on the ground. Multiple blitz sets sent pressure from different points, and Fruita’s offensive line couldn’t keep up. Lynch was sacked three times, and the Demons racked up 13 tackles for loss, mostly by swarming the ball carrier on read-option plays.
On offense, Durango didn’t complete a pass, with quarterback Jeremy Szura missing on all of his nine attempts. The Demons did, however, find some semblance of offense on the ground. Szura, Mayberry and David Logan combined to give Durango 107 total yards of offense. Most of that came on two drives in the second half.
“Just the travel hurt us, I think,” Durango coach David Vogt said. “We got off the bus, and we didn’t play very well. We picked it up in the second half and started playing fundamental football. And that’s what we told them at halftime. You have to be able to come back from mistakes, and we did.”
The game between Durango and Montrose on Oct. 25 will decide the SWC champion. The Demons travel to Montrose (7-1, 1-1 SWC), and if they can come out with a win, they will be crowned conference champions. A win against Montrose, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A before Thursday’s loss to Grand Junction, also likely would mean a high playoff seed.
If Durango loses against the Indians by anything more than one point, tiebreakers would favor Grand Junction (6-2, 2-1). District 51 Athletic Director Paul Cain said in the event of a three-way tie atop the conference, the first way to eliminate a team would be to look at the records against the other teams in the conference. If the Tigers beat Central on Oct. 25, all three teams involved in the tiebreaker would have beaten Fruita and Central.
The next tiebreaker has two parts. First, the point differentials of the three teams’ wins (Durango over Grand Junction, Grand Junction over Montrose, and theoretically Montrose over Durango) would be tallied, and the team with the lowest point differential would be eliminated. Second, the head-to-head winner of the remaining teams would be crowned champion.
If the Indians beat the Demons by anything more than one point, the Tigers will win the SWC.