Tigers battle to the end, but fall to big-play Falcons
Sometimes football math just doesn’t make sense.
About midway through the second quarter Friday night, Grand Junction had run 26 offensive plays to Skyline’s four, but the Falcons still led 13-3.
What does make sense, is the big-play factor.
Skyline used big plays throughout the game to pull away from the Tigers and go on to a 47-24 win at Stocker Stadium.
Even with the loss, Grand Junction played well at times, especially in the second half when they scored 21 points.
“I feel like we all came out and played as a team,” senior running back Logan Grossnickle said. “We had a common goal, and we wanted to come back for each other.”
It started out badly for the Tigers when Skyline’s Jack Wathen took the opening kickoff back 96 yards for an early 6-0 lead.
On the Falcons’ fourth offensive play of the game, running back Jeremy Hollingsworth took the handoff, broke a tackle and then broke free for an 80-yard TD run.
Grand Junction (1-3) fell behind 27-3 at the half but came out with a much-more determined effort in the third quarter.
On the second play of the third, Grossnickle went to the outside where the Tigers had caved in the Falcons’ defense and sprinted untouched for a 43-yard TD to cut the lead to 27-10.
Defensively, the Tigers came out with a better effort, too. Dante Gonzalez broke up a pass and Hunter Tobiasson made two tackles to force a punt.
Every time the Tigers cut into the lead, the Falcons eventually answered.
Quarterback Nate McGregor completed 12 of 15 passes for 160 yards, including three touchdown passes in the second half, but the Tigers hung with the unbeaten Falcons, who came into the game averaging 54 points per game.
Tobiasson scored on a 6-yard run when it looked like he was stopped at the 3, but the junior kept driving and twisting until he was in the end zone.
That cut the deficit to 34-17, but the Falcons again responded with a TD to make it 40-17.
Grand Junction scored its final TD on a 41-yard scoring strike from Clay Payne to Marty Huff, who caught the ball at the 20, made a quick juke and sprinted to the end zone.
Even with the game out of reach, the Tigers kept fighting and when Hollingsworth broke free again late in the fourth, Gonzalez wasn’t going to give up.
The senior defensive back hustled from way behind to make a diving stop on Hollingsworth after a 60-yard gain.
“We weren’t happy with that first half, so we sat down and talked about it in the locker room,” Gonzalez said. “We knew we had to make a change, and we came out with so much more energy in the second half.”
Late in the first half, Skyline pushed the lead 27-3 when McGregor found open space up the middle, then got lost in the scrum. When he popped out, he found daylight down the sideline for a 49-yard TD run.
In total, the Falcons had 10 plays of 26 yards or more, including eight scoring plays.
In the first quarter, the Tigers went on a nine-play drive, converting three third downs.
Payne made two pinpoint 8-yard passes — one to Tobiasson and the other to Kade Christensen — to keep the drive alive.
The drive stalled and the Tigers pinned the Falcons back on their own 12.
The first three plays from scrimmage for the Falcons were dismal.
J.T. Skalecki drilled a receiver for a six-yard loss, then McGregor was sacked, just barely squeezing out of the end zone.
The Tigers’ offense again showed life, overcoming a fourth-and-13 on a penalty and a determined 4-yard run by Jamis Utt to get the first down.
Again the drive stalled, but Joe Carol drilled a 24-yard field goal to pull the Tigers within 6-3 at the time.
The Falcons finally put together a sustained drive that included a 29-yard pass play and 30-yard run on the 89-yard drive.
Skyline (4-0) then got a little lucky when they fumbled on second-and-goal but a lineman fell on the football in the end zone for the 20-3 lead.
Grossnickle, who finished with 108 yards rushing, said the better second half is something the Tigers can build on.
“It was exciting for me and I know the other guys are excited, because we know we’re going to play better, and I think we’ll come out next week and get a W,” he said.