Do-it-all Daniels: Two-way player makes pair of crucial plays to help Fruita top Loveland
When it came time to make a play, Tyler Daniels was there.
The only two-way player for the Fruita Monument High School football team made key contributions on both sides of the ball Saturday as the Wildcats defeated Loveland 10-7 at Stocker Stadium. With Loveland leading 7-3, Daniels recovered a fumble with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Daniels’ 41-yard touchdown reception gave the Wildcats the lead.
“I knew I had to pay the team back for the drop and there’s no better way than scoring the game-winning touchdown,” said Daniels, who dropped a couple of passes in the first half. “I told Zach to throw it up and give me a chance.”
Daniels finished with four catches for 64 yards, but might not have been able to make his big play if it wasn’t for fellow receiver Martin Zupan.
The Wildcats’ best play against the Class 4A Indians was a bubble screen that featured Zupan, who finished with 11 catches for 119 yards, going in motion, then catching the ball at the line of scrimmage before turning upfield.
“A lot of people say ‘why do they run that bubble,’ ” Fruita Monument coach Shawn Marsh said. “It’s for that reason, it sets stuff up. When you get the ball to Martin and Tyler, they will make good things happen.” The long touchdown pass to Daniels was one of the only shots down the field the Wildcats took in the game. Marsh said Zupan’s effectiveness in the short passing game set up the score.
“They started keying on Martin and that left me open,” Daniels said. “(Zupan) is a warrior. I don’t even have words to describe his play, he’s been big for us.”
Daniels and Zupan helped set up a score on the Wildcats opening drive. First, Daniels returned the opening kickoff 45 yards to the Indians’ 49-yard line. Next, Zupan’s first reception of the day was a 34-yard catch and run that brought the Wildcats to the 4-yard line.
After the Wildcats were stuffed on two attempts from the 1-yard line, Daniels kicked a 19-yard field goal to give Fruita the early 3-0 lead.
“I’ve gone for it a bunch, but when we have kids who can kick field goals, you take the points early in the game,” Marsh said. “I feel good we did that, and it was the right call at the time.”
The Indians mounted a solid first drive before a fumble stalled their momentum.
Both teams continued to move the ball the remainder of the first half, but couldn’t get into the end zone.
“We marched it but we were making mistakes,” Marsh said. “We kept missing offensively and our defense played great.”
Loveland found some room on its first offensive series of the second half with quarterback Scott Weissman breaking off runs of 27, 15 and 17 yards to set the Indians up at the 1-yard line. Fullback Connor Medbery, who finished with 83 yards rushing, plowed his way in to put the Indians ahead 7-3.
The Fruita Monument offense continued to sputter until Daniels’ fumble recovery set up the touchdown.
The Indians had one last opportunity to score with 2:37 remaining and mounted a solid drive. Loveland worked its way to the 10-yard line before Logan Jones pushed a 27-yard field goal wide right with 10 seconds remaining.
“They kept fighting and fighting,” Marsh said of the Wildcats. “It shows a lot about their character, and I’m proud of them.”