Cowboys lose final game of the season to Bulldogs

MEEKER I An injured Meeker football team lost their final game of the season in Starbuck Stadium on Friday to the Hotchkiss Bulldogs 28-0, finishing the season with a 5-4 record.
Because of injuries, the Cowboys started the game without their quarterback and two seniors and although they did not score, head coach Shane Phelan said his team did play with one of the top five, 2A teams in the state, in the second half.
“Hotchkiss is a good team, ranked fourth of fifth,” Phelan said, (Hotchkiss is currently ranked No. 5 by MaxPreps, Paonia is No. 4 and Cedaredge is No. 10).
“We have one of the toughest leagues in the state, with three teams ranked in the top 10 and it was the same case when we played them, it takes us a little while to figure out we can play with them. Against Hotchkiss it took us a little longer to figure out because we were missing a few fellas,” Phelan said.
Quarterback Jake Phelan is recovering from a broken leg and seniors Ricky Jeffery and Taylor Slaugh did not suit up for their final game.
“Last year the kids struggled, didn’t have a lot of success, this year was a new year with a learning curve that we could be in some of those games and the next step is to win those games,” Phelan said.
The Cowboys trailed 21-0 at the end of the first half and the Bulldogs did not score again until the final minute of the game.
“It was a good effort,” Phelan said. “Our defense did some great things but we couldn’t get them off the field on third and fourth downs and on offense we were not able to sustain our drives and one of the two had to happen to give us a spark.”
Junior Raul Lopez replaced Phelan at quarterback and Coach Phelan said his three remaining seniors stepped up and led their team in their final game.
“Raul did a good job for us with only one week of practice at the position,” Phelan said.
“Our three other seniors, Ohana (Mataia), J.C. (Henderson), and Willis (Begaye), all were trying to make every play and do all they could. I couldn’t ask for anything more from these guys, they were all a real joy to coach.”
Coach Phelan was pleased with the season and hopes kids will continue to improve during the off season, in preparation for next season.
“Overall, I believe we made strides improving during the season, we got bit by the injury bug a little but at the end of the season, I thought we were better tacklers and blockers. Summer and the off season will be a chance for them to get even better. We have a lot of returners and we are excited about them putting in the time and work to improve because we know Paonia, Cedaredge and Hotchkiss will put in the time and work. We played with those teams and know what is required.”