Hotchkiss denies Meeker league title

Senior members of Meeker’s football team presented flowers to their parents prior to the start of last Friday’s regular-season finale against Hotchkiss. The Cowboys play Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.

Senior members of Meeker’s football team presented flowers to their parents prior to the start of last Friday’s regular-season finale against Hotchkiss. The Cowboys play Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.
Senior members of Meeker’s football team presented flowers to their parents prior to the start of last Friday’s regular-season finale against Hotchkiss. The Cowboys play Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.
MEEKER I Both teams had already qualified for the state playoffs, so the game played in Starbuck Stadium last Friday between the hometown Meeker Cowboys and the Hotchkiss Bulldogs determined the Northwest League championship and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Hotchkiss remained undefeated (9-0) after winning 29-6 and will host the Dolores Bears, while Meeker took its second loss of the season (7-2) and will travel to Ignacio to play the Bobcats, also 7-2, Saturday in the first round of the Colorado State Championship playoffs.
“They played very well,” Meeker head coach Shane Phalen said of his opponent. “They are a good football team.”
The game was played closer than the score indicates; Hotchkiss just made more big plays than the Cowboys.
Meeker forced the Bulldogs to punt after three offensive plays but an interception on the Cowboys’ third offensive play of the game was returned for a touchdown, giving Hotchkiss a quick 7-0 lead.
The Cowboys made a couple of first downs on their next possession before turning the ball over to the Bulldogs on downs. Meeker got the ball back, when Ryan Wix recovered a fumble but the Cowboys would punt it back to the Bulldogs, four plays later.
Meeker turned the ball over on downs for a second time and this time the Bulldogs capitalized with a 44-yard touchdown run and a 14-point lead.
The Cowboys gained two more first downs and were moving before giving the ball back to the Bulldogs, again on downs, with less than 1:30 to play in the first half.
“We were able to move the ball, then we would just kind of sputter,” Phelan said of his team’s offense.
Hotchkiss moved the ball to the 6-yard line and kicked a field goal to take a 17-0 lead into the second half.
Cowboy senior Brock Campbell returned the kickoff more than 60 yards, starting the second half at the Bulldogs’ 25-yard line, where classmate Colton Brown scored Meeker’s first touchdown, faking an option. The extra point attempt was no good and Meeker trailed 17-6.
The Bulldogs did not panic but marched 70 yards down the field, gaining five first downs and a touchdown to take a 23-6 lead midway through the third quarter.
The two teams traded turnovers with Meeker’s Reno Roybal recovering a fumble before Brown threw his second interception of the game, which the Bulldogs capitalized on with a final touchdown.
“We had some consistency issues,” Phelan said. “Sometimes we played brilliantly and at a loss at others. Against a team like Hotchkiss, they make you pay for your mistakes. “
Meeker scored 242 points in their seven wins and allowed only 23 points but gave up 31 and 29 in losses to Olathe and Hotchkiss, respectively.
“The big thing was, we hung our hat on our defense all season and against Hotchkiss we were unable to get critical stops when we need to,” Phelan said.
The Cowboys travel to the southwest corner of the state to take on the San Juan Basin league champion Bobcats.
“We know they have some big strong kids and a physical team,” Phelan said of Meeker’s playoff opponent. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.”