Cowboys start playoffs undefeated once again

Meeker High School senior Trapper Merrifield, who leads the Cowboys with 32 receptions for 802 yards, including 12 for touchdowns, caught two passes against the Olathe Pirates, both for touchdowns, including one for 71 yards, in the final game of the regular season. Merrifield and the Cowboys will host the Cornerstone Christian Academy Bulldogs in Starbuck Stadium, in the first round of the 1A 2017 Colorado State Football playoffs, this Friday at 7 p.m. Bobby Gutierrez photo

MEEKER | For the second year in a row, the Meeker Cowboys enter the 1A Colorado State Football Championship playoffs undefeated in their quest to win the community’s first-ever state football title after finishing as a runner-up last year. The Cowboys pounded the Olathe Pirates 52-21 in the final game of the regular season, earning the opportunity to host the Cornerstone Christian Academy Bulldogs in the first round of the playoffs Friday in Starbuck Stadium.
“This worked out a little better for our community, as they will get an opportunity to check out our football and volleyball programs in post-season play at home,” Meeker head football coach Shane Phelan said about his team hosting a playoff game Friday. The recently crowned District champion Meeker volleyball team will host a Regional tournament Saturday.
The Cowboys only needed two plays from scrimmage to take a 14-8 lead against the Pirates in Starbuck Stadium last Friday, then Meeker scored two more touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 30-15 lead at halftime.
“Olathe is a good group of kids but our offense was able to put points on the scoreboard in outstanding fashion in the first half, then we kind of wore them down in the second half,” coach Phelan said.
Meeker received the opening kick and senior quarterback Logan Hughes threw a screen pass to running back classmate Doak Mantle, who ran 60 yards for a touchdown then added the two point conversion to give his team an 8-0 lead less than a minute into the game.
Olathe put together a long drive on its first possession, which ended with a touchdown and tied the game with five minutes to play in the first quarter.
“Olathe runs the single wing well and we were concerned about the run, as they mash it right at you,” coach Phelan said.
After Olathe scored and kicked off to the Cowboys, Hughes handed the ball off to Mantle on Meeker’s second play from scrimmage and Mantle scored again, this time from 65 yards.
Meeker continued its explosive offense, scoring in the second quarter when Hughes connected with senior wide receiver Trapper Merrifield for a 71 -yard touchdown, then Hughes added the two-point conversion, giving his team a 22-8 lead.
The Pirates would score again in the second quarter but Hughes connected with Merrifield again, this time for a 33-yard touchdown with Mantle scoring the two-point conversion, giving the Cowboys a 30-15 halftime lead.
Meeker’s defense stepped up in the second half and stopped Olathe’s first two possessions, while Meeker capitalized both times with touchdown runs from Jorgen Stagg, giving the Cowboys a 45-15 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Both teams scored in the fourth quarter, Meeker’s coming on an unintended short kickoff, which freshman Jeremy Woodard came down with and returned for a touchdown.
The Cowboys scored seven more Touchdowns for Kris in the final game of the regular season, and went into the game having scored 14 touchdowns, giving them a total of 21 for the month of October.
Hughes finished the game with four completions, three of them for touchdowns and 168 yards. Mantle carried the ball five times for 96 yards and a rushing touchdown as well. Stagg rushed for two touchdowns and gained 54 yards on 13 carries. Merrifield caught two of Hughes’ passes, both for touchdowns and 103 yards.
Tannen Kennedy led the team with 17 tackles on defense, Luis Villalpando was in on 15, Tevin Pelloni recorded 13, James Amick had 12 and Mantle finished with 10.
Coach Phelan said his team is “fairly healthy,” adding “we are fortunate to have a lot of kids on our roster, so we have good depth on our team, something we hope to hang our hat on in the playoffs.”
The Cowboys enter the state playoffs as the No. 2 seed and would play the winner of Crowley County and Limon if they beat the Bulldogs Friday, but Phelan is not looking past the first round.
“We play Cornerstone Christian Academy Friday and we’ll see where the bracket takes us from there if we play well,” coach Phelan said. “We are excited to be playing at home and encourage everyone to come support the Cowboys.”