Youth FB ends season
The Fruita Cowboys heavyweight football team wrapped up a dominating, undefeated season with a Mesa County Junior Football Association championship Wednesday.
The Cowboys beat the Redlands Chargers 12-8 in the title game at Stocker Stadium.
The heavyweight division has players ages 12 through 14 who weigh more than the established weight limits for the lightweight division at each age.
Led by running back Braeden Graham, the Cowboys took a 6-0 lead but fell behind 8-6 shortly before the half.
The only other time the Cowboys trailed this season was when they fell behind against the Chargers by 15, but they came storming back to get the win and keep their undefeated season alive.
Graham scored both touchdowns for the Cowboys and had more than 150 yards rushing.
The Cowboys went 9-0 on the season but struggled with turnovers in the championship game. Offensive coach Billy Lampshire said they didn’t have a single turnover during the season but lost four fumbles against the Chargers.
He said the Cowboys’ defense helped keep the Chargers from taking advantage of some of the turnovers.
Quarterback Bryson Lucero ran the complicated Cowboys’ offense that has more than 200 different plays in its playbook. As the offensive captain, Lucero is the key to the Cowboys’ success, Lampshire said.
The Cowboys came in with a new strategy to try and surprise the Chargers in the title game.
The unique strategy was to give the ball to fullback Terrance Williams more than they had all season.
Lampshire said Williams didn’t have many carries during the regular season, and the strategy worked, with Williams rushing for more than 100 yards in the game.
After Graham scored on a 30-yard run to give the Cowboys the lead in the third quarter, the game came down to defense.
Fruita shut down the Chargers for most of the second half and was led by C.J. Parrish, who was making his first start at middle linebacker, and outside linebacker Austin Bernal, who is the team’s defensive captain.
The game also marked the end of an era as Cowboys head coach Kenny Howell will be retiring from coaching youth football after more than 20 years, 19 with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys have won five Mesa County championships in the past 10 years.
After going winless last year, Howell, 56, said it was pretty satisfying to win it all this year.
“Last year was just one of those things,” he said with a laugh.
He said coaching youth football has been extremely satisfying.
“It’s all about the kids, the parents and the game of football,” he said.
The Grand Mesa Steelers won the Mesa County Junior Football Association lightweight championship with a 20-8 win over the Redlands Chargers.
The Steelers went 7-2 on the season and avenged both regular-season losses with victories in the playoffs.
“It was an amazing feeling for all of us,” said head coach Josh Ruppelius, who added that each of his 35 players on the roster played in the championship game.
Ruppelius said the victory earned the Steelers their first Mesa County Junior Football lightweight title.
Anthony Zubiate scored all three touchdowns for the Steelers, and his third score gave the team some breathing room.
Zubiate scored on a pair of runs to put the Steelers up 14-0, then the Chargers cut the lead to 14-8.
On the ensuing kickoff after the Chargers’ TD, Zubiate broke off a long kickoff return to increase the Steelers’ lead again.
Ruppelius said the Steelers committed three turnovers in the game, but the defense played extremely well to control the Chargers.
■ In the sixth-grade championship game, the Redlands Chargers beat the West Raiders 40-16.
■ The Palisade Broncos won the fifth-grade championship with a 21-12 victory over the Bookcliff Chiefs.