Fruita’s comeback attempt not enough against top-ranked Denver South
DENVER — In the first five games of the season, Fruita Monument High School football coach Todd Casebier wasn’t always thrilled with how his team handled adversity.
But in Saturday’s 49-42 Mountain Conference opening loss to Denver South at All City Stadium, the Wildcats showed their tenacity.
After allowing touchdowns on two consecutive special-teams plays to go down 49-21 with 5:27 left, the Wildcats roared back with three touchdowns in the closing minutes against the top-ranked team in the most recent Class 4A CHSAANow.com football rankings.
“We’ve just talked all year about how we’ve got to do a better job when adversity strikes us in a game. We’ve had a couple of games where we’ve gotten down and hung our heads and all of a sudden we got beat worse,” Casebier said. “We’re past that. Our guys are going to battle the rest of the year.”
The setup for the finale wasn’t pretty.
The Wildcats (2-4, 0-1 Mountain Conference) trailed 21-14 at halftime and were held scoreless in the third as the Rebels (6-0, 1-0) increased the lead to 35-14 headed to the final quarter.
It took Fruita until midway through the fourth quarter to get back on the board, when Logan Triplett capped an eight-minute drive with a fourth-and-1 touchdown rush up the middle to make it 35-21 after a point-after kick by Marcus Mosnes.
It was off to the races from there. Fruita attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, a strategy that had worked for them once earlier in the game. The Rebel return team was ready for it, as Dashawn Griffin caught the kick and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.
On the next kickoff, Fruita Monument’s returner took a hard hit and dropped the ball near the 25. South’s Tyreek Bryant picked it up and ran it in to make it 49-21.
“At that point you can’t give up, you’ve just got to do your best,” said Fruita running back Braeden Graham. “Our team had to pull it through.”
Over the next nine plays after the fumble, the Wildcats used a combination of rushes by Graham, a 21-yard pass from Kyle Fineran to Travis Newland and a red-zone penalty by South to get back into the red zone. Graham finished the drive with a 7-yard run to help narrow the deficit to 49-28.
The Fruita defense did its part — forcing a fumble on the first play of South’s next drive. That gave the Wildcats offense the ball at the Rebels 19-yard-line.
Two plays later, Graham took it in again to make it 49-35 with 2:38 left.
After forcing a turnover on downs on the next series, Fruita finished its scoring with a 48-yard flea flicker touchdown pass from Daniel VanHoose to Cameron Kenney to make it 49-42 with 42 seconds left.
The Wildcats again went for the onside kick, which was recovered by South. A kneel by quarterback Amon Wright ended the game.
Graham finished the game as one of two 100-yard rushers for the Wildcats, logging 157 yards on 27 carries with three touchdowns. Triplett added 103 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Graham credited their success to Fruita’s offensive line, which provided a push on numerous fourth-down and goal-line conversions.
The Rebels were led by Marcus Lindsay, who had three touchdowns and got credit for a 51-yard reception at the end of the second half after he was pitched a ball originally caught by Dre’mond Griffin. Lindsay caught the lateral after the 16-yard pass and sprinted it another 35 yards the touchdown.
Linday finished the game with 85 yards on 17 carries. The run game helped open up the field for Amon Wright’s passing attack, which logged 167 yards on 11 completions.
With the loss, Casebier is looking for his team to win out in its final four games, which includes three home dates.
“We think if we go 6-4, we’re going to have a good shot to get into the playoffs. And the most important game is the game next week (against Thornton),” he said. “We feel like it’s coming together for us.
“We ran into a really good football team today and we feel like if we had played a mere-mortal team, we would have won. Give South the credit, but we’re going to be ready next week and our goal is to win our last four.”