Mulvey: ‘Everything in my heart said… go for it’
Gutsy call wins it for Fruita
The old football saying, or conventional wisdom — whatever it’s called — does not call for what Sean Mulvey did.
Kick the extra point for the tie at home; go for two points and the win on the road.
Fruita Monument was the home team, but Mulvey just couldn’t abide by that. Not after the previous three weeks when little went right for his Wildcats in three losses. Not when his team had played so hard Saturday and had victory so near.
He listened instead to his heart, and the Wildcats (2-3) snapped their losing streak and kept Class 5A playoff hopes alive with an 18-17 nonconference victory over Highlands Ranch.
After Juston Erekson swept left on his only carry of the game for 4 yards and a touchdown that pulled Fruita within 17-16 with four minutes, 35 seconds left in the game. Mulvey had a decision to make about the extra point.
“I trust in these kids. ... I just wanted to show them I trusted them, I believe in them,” Mulvey said. “The only option I had in my heart was we had to go for it.”
So, the Wildcats’ offense took the field, quarterback Jake Lynch took the shotgun snap, then ran left with running back Isaac Rodriguez trailing him for a possible option pitch. Lynch saw the seam he needed, turned upfield and dove over the goal line.
Mulvey’s call didn’t surprise Lynch, who said the Wildcats had been driving the ball, and it made sense that they could get three yards with the victory in the balance.
“He believes in us, and we believe in him,” Lynch said of Mulvey. “He put his trust in us, and we pulled through.”
Mulvey demonstrated his faith in the Wildcats on another key play on the winning drive, which numbered 10 plays, took advantage of two penalties and covered 69 yards. On a fourth down with 12 yards to go and 7:38 remaining in the contest, the coach decided to go for the first down rather than punt from the 50-yard line.
Again, Mulvey said, “Everything in my heart said we have to go for it.”
The Wildcats almost had their hearts broken. Lynch’s pass to Nick Chaffe on the right sideline fell incomplete. But a Highlands Ranch defender was flagged for holding Fruita tight end Matt Story, giving the Wildcats 10 yards and a fourth-and-two, which Rodriguez converted with a 4-yard run.
Story said the penalty was a good call.
“He got a hold of my jersey and turned me around, and we got the call,” Story said.
Story followed Rodriguez’s run with a catch for 15 yards, putting the Wildcats at the Falcons’ 21-yard line, and three runs and a pass-interference penalty set the stage on third-and-goal for Erekson, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound linebacker who had made his presence felt most of the game on defense, including a first-half sack that forced a fumble, which Fruita recovered.
Story also had a huge sack for Fruita, dropping Highlands Ranch quarterback Keaton Thames for a 10-yard loss on a third-and-five play from the Wildcats’ 9-yard line. The Falcons’ fourth-down pass fell incomplete, keeping them from adding to their 14-10 lead.
Story surfaced again on the Falcons’ final possession. After Thames, who completed 11 of 17 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, ducked under a defender and rolled to his left, he forced a short pass that went right to the senior linebacker.
Story praised the defensive line for forcing Thames to make a bad throw and added, “I was in the right place at the right time.”
Mulvey thought he saw the ball slipping out of Story’s hands, then felt the elation the rest of the Wildcats felt when he realized Story held on for the only interception of Thames.
Fruita ran four plays to take the remaining 2:26 off the clock for a win that Mulvey, Lynch and Story all referred to as huge for the Wildcats. They needed the win over a fellow Class 5A team for the power points that will be required to qualify for a playoff berth.
Lynch added he was proud of the way Fruita kept fighting because that’s what it’s going to have to do the rest of the season.
“We showed fight and heart all night,” said Lynch, who ran for 106 yards and passed for 154. “We persevered through all of the hardship and won.”