Wildcats’ comeback falls short after three turnovers

Fruita Monument running back Braeden Graham runs away from Chatfield lineback Ammon Alvarez for a touchdown on Saturday during the Wildcats’ 36-28 playoff loss at Stocker Stadium. Graham finished with 34 carries for 155 yards. Quarterback Zach Rush, below, passed for 119 yards.

Three first-half turnovers put the Fruita Monument High School football team in a hole Saturday afternoon in a Class 4A playoff game against Chatfield. But as they had all season, the Wildcats fought through their mistakes.

No. 10 Fruita Monument made it a one-score game on Treyton Queen’s touchdown with less than six minutes remaining and recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the No. 2 Chargers stopped the Wildcats on fourth down and ran out the clock for a 36-28 victory at Stocker Stadium.

The turnovers resulted in 24 points for Chatfield in the second quarter after Fruita Monument had taken an early 7-0 lead.

“You can’t make mistakes against a team like that,” Fruita Monument coach Todd Casebier said. “If you would have told me coming in we’d have three turnovers, I would have said there’s no way we can win. All of them either cost us points or gave them points. But again, give them credit, they’re a hard-hitting football team. I’m also proud of our guys. They hung together and battled until the end, and that’s all we can ask them to do.”

Fruita’s first drive was long and methodical as the Wildcats strung together 15 plays and 47 yards on a series that included a pair of fourth-down conversions. That drive, however, ended abruptly when the Wildcats ran another play on fourth down. A gadget play that had wide receiver Daniel Van Hoose throwing a pass that would have gotten the first down, but a fumble by the pass-catcher beyond the sticks gave Chatfield the ball back.

Fruita’s defense forced a three-and-out and got the ball back. After two plays, quarterback Zach Rush found Van Hoose ­— lined up at tight end — for a wide-open 60-yard touchdown with 3:17 left in the first quarter.

Chatfield responded quickly, scoring on the first play of the second quarter, then a Fruita fumble cut the next drive short.

The Chargers took a 14-7 lead five plays later, but Van Hoose responded immediately with an 85-yard kickoff return of a touchdown.

Chatfield’s next drive ended with a 28-yard field goal from Andrew Mangold. From there, the game somewhat got away from Fruita.

Rush was hurried by blitzing defenders and threw into triple coverage, resulting in an interception. Chatfield flipped that turnover into a touchdown two plays later on a 6-yard score from Ben Frenette.

Fruita got one more chance very late in the first half, with Marcus Mosnes’ 47-yard field goal attempt that appeared to be tipped at the line of scrimmage, clanked off the crossbar for a miss.

“We made too many mistakes in the first half to beat a team like Chatfield,” Casebier said. “We turned it over three times and we’ve been able to avoid that this season. But the guys who turned it over are some of our best kids, scrapping and clawing for us and that’s what happens when you’re playing a hard-hitting team. Give Chatfield credit and I’m proud of our guys.”

After the break, Chatfield scored on its opening drive, with Frenette taking a fourth-and-1 run untouched for a 21-yard touchdown for a 30-14.

The rest of the third quarter passed without another score and in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats’ running game brought them back. Led by Queen — filling in for Logan Triplett at fullback — and running back Braeden Graham, the Wildcats came within striking distance twice in the final frame.

Graham scooted in for a 7-yard score early in the fourth quarter, but the two-point conversion failed, leaving Fruita down 30-20 with 10:01 to go.

Fruita unsuccessfully tried for an onside kick and Chatfield scored four players later, with a late flag coming in as the extra-point team took the field. Unsportsmanlike conduct was called on a Chargers player, backing up the extra point, and the kick missed wide left, leaving the Wildcats trailing 36-20 — still two scores away.

Fruita ground out a 12-play, 82-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown by Queen. This time around, the two-point conversion was successful, with Rush finding Cameron Kinney to make it 36-28.

The Wildcats recovered this onside kick, but the drive ended in a designed quarterback run on fourth down and Chatfield ran out the clock.

“I probably put Zach in a bad spot with that (call),” Casebier said.

For Fruita, Graham carried the football 34 times for 155 yards and one touchdown. Queen finished with 15 carries for 85 yards and one score.

Van Hoose also had a big game, stepping in for an injured Kyle Fineran as the Wildcats’ primary wide receiver. Van Hoose caught five passes for a 101 yards and a touchdown.

“I knew from watching Kyle and knowing what he can do and what kind of a competitor and athlete he is,” Van Hoose said. “I just stepped in and wanted to do it for him and the rest of the team.”

The Chargers had similar success on the ground, but had to shift some things around.

Dalton Keene, a Virginia Tech commit, lined up at running back and finished with 21 carries for 118 yards and two scores. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior typically takes on more of a fullback role, Chatfield coach Bret McGatlin said, but Frenette, the primary running back, was playing on a partially torn medial collateral ligament. Frenette had 18 carries for 84 yards and two scores.

Chatfield advances to face Pine Creek, which beat Greeley West 28-9 on Friday.

“We saw a really physical team today and seeing Pine Creek next week, I know how physical they are and we’re definitely not going to be overwhelmed by it after what we saw from Fruita,” McGatlin said. “Today also reaffirmed the importance of not turning the ball over. We didn’t have any turnovers today, if I’m not mistaken, and our kids know they get wings on Wednesday if they don’t turn the ball over.”

Fruita Monument has qualified for the postseason in both of Casebier’s two seasons and hosted a playoff game for the first time since 2003. Casebier said he is proud of his team.

“The way the season went, that’s how the game went today,” Casebier said. “We got into a hole, fought back and ran out of time. But I’m proud of this group.”


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