Phelan leads Meeker past Cards
PARACHUTE — If it weren’t for a train clacking and churning along the highway north of the Grand Valley football field Friday night, it would have been silent.
Meeker’s read-option attack had been shredding the Cardinals all night, and when Cowboys quarterback Jake Phelan made a read and kept the ball, he shot along the southern sideline for a 59-yard touchdown.
The score gave Meeker the points it needed to top Grand Valley 32-29.
Phelan authored a 21-carry, 160-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance and threw for 158 yards and three touchdowns, outplaying highly touted Grand Valley quarterback Tyler Scott.
“We got the scouting report and knew that (Scott) was really good,” Phelan said. “We worked all week, worked on our drops and were trying to manage their spread attack.”
It wasn’t that Scott was bad. The heavily recruited quarterback threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns, including a pair of 40-plus-yard strikes, and he ran for 97 yards on 11 carries.
Cardinals coach Mike Johnson said his defense lacked chemistry.
“We have to learn how to play team defense,” Johnson said. “It’s about maintaining your responsibility and doing your job. We have to have some integrity and play defense like a team, not a bunch of individuals.”
Bryan Hegwood nearly brought the Cardinals back into the game. On the first down of the Cowboys’ final drive, Hegwood shot into the backfield to stuff an option-read for a 5-yard loss. Two plays later, he returned an interception 24 yards to put Grand Valley at Meeker’s 27-yard-line with three minutes left in the game.
The defensive captain and the Cardinals’ emotional leader was firing the offense up, head bobbing in the huddle, and he even powered out a violent 8-yard, third-down carry to keep the Cardinals’ drive alive.
Grand Valley drove to the 9-yard line, but couldn’t generate offense in the red zone. Meeker didn’t need red zone offense until after the half. Phelan put the Cowboys on the board early with 19- and 60-yard touchdown passes, the latter coming on a blown read by a safety.
It was during the second half that Meeker began to grind Grand Valley down, as Phelan scored on a 1-yard run and threw a 7-yard TD pass before he broke his big run for the winning score.
Meeker coach Shane Phelan said he couldn’t give Jake, his son, too much praise. But he gave credit to Jake and T.J. Shelton for running the read-option well.
“When you have two athletes like that, you want to use them both,” Shane Phelan said. “When they’re two explosive guys like that, it’s tough to take them both away if you’re a defense.
“Big games like this don’t happen by accident, and it was a total team effort. We prepared for this, and we were lucky to be in the spots we were.”