Falling a little short
Central hangs with Rams until miscues in 4th quarter
Two freshmen started on defense. Their starting quarterback, Mike Price, returned from last week’s concussion. Its leading tackler was out.
And still, against the No. 12-ranked team in Class 4A on Friday night, Central High School was a touchdown away from a possible win.
But three Central fourth-quarter fumbles put the game away for Green Mountain, which defeated the Warriors 21-14 at Stocker Stadium.
“We have the talent; we’re at that level,” Central wide receiver Ed Becoat said. “We just need to take one more step in the fourth quarter and finish a game. We lost our last three by one possession to top teams. We have it in us.”
If Central (0-4) learned something Friday, it’s just that — the Warriors have it in them. It has the ability, for example, to nearly overcome the loss of leading tackler Conner Williamson and starting strong safety John Sullivan, both of whom were suspended because of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties last week against D’Evelyn.
Numerous others missed the game because they were ineligible or injured.
Price returned from a concussion for extensive playing time at quarterback.
Central even took a 14-6 lead in the third quarter when Dusty Sanchez punctuated the Warriors’ best game on the ground this season with a 52-yard touchdown run. Sanchez finished with 87 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Green Mountain came back with touchdown runs by Austin Morse and Roland Warns on Central’s defense that often featured freshmen starters Tonka Little-fawn at linebacker and Colton Maybury at defensive end. Also the Warriors’ 126-pound sophomore Dominique Quintana saw action at safety and recovered a first-quarter fumble. Quintana missed his football and wrestling seasons last year with a broken leg.
But Central’s secondary managed, allowing only 42 yards passing.
“Tonka got 20 plays at linebacker and I saw him get three or four tackles,” Central coach Vern McGee said. “Colton Maybury at defensive end ... I bet he played 25-30 plays on defense.”
But Central’s fourth-quarter fumbles stunted drives. One fumble came on an exchange, another on a pitch.
Still, down 21-14, Central had the ball at its own 29 with 1:35 remaining. A Price 12-yard run got the ball to the 45. But the drive ended on a deep, fourth-and-11 incomplete pass.
“We’re still trying to learn how to win,” McGee said. “We get the ball back with a minute-plus left and we have 13 guys on the field. That’s just losing composure and panicking and trying to make plays. We also ran some wrong routes and that’s something they should know at this point in time.”
Central took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. During the drive, Becoat caught a 44-yard pass along the sideline, outleaping two defenders.
Becoat dislocated his hip three weeks ago in a loss to Palisade. He missed one game, but returned last week against D’Evelyn. On Friday, he caught three passes for 59 yards.
“We’ve been playing really well,” Becoat said. “We played well this game; it’s just the little things. Fumbles and stuff like that killed us in the end.”
Central rushed for 170 yards, but allowed 135 to Green Mountain running back Josh Einerston.
Things do not get easier for the Warriors, who play at No. 11 Dakota Ridge next week, then at home against Fruita Monument, and eventually, at No. 1-ranked Wheat Ridge Oct. 20, followed by No.9-ranked Grand Junction.
By that time, however, Central could have many of its players back, and McGee might not be scrambling to plug holes.
“I’m proud of the way we played,” McGee said.
But Central knows where it must improve.
“I think we got maybe 50 yards passing and that’s got to be better,” Price said. “We ran the ball probably the best we have run it all year. It’s just the little things. We’re going to get one.”