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MEEKER I Racking up big numbers hasn’t been the goal this season.
Winning games is the goal.
The Cowboys have been doing both.
Two weeks ago, Meeker set its high mark for scoring for the season with a 50-19 win over the Class 5A Fruita Monument junior varsity.
Last Friday, in the league opener, the Cowboys topped that mark with a 58-0 shutout against Lake County at Leadville.
“That’s not what we’re trying to do (put up big numbers),” first-year coach Jeff Palmer said. “But we’re just really clicking on offense.”
The second quarter, especially, has been good to the Cowboys.
For example, in the season opener against the Grand Junction High School junior varsity, Meeker scored 34 points in the second quarter. Then in a 43-20 win over Center in game three, the Cowboys scored 28 points in the second quarter.
“It’s strange,” Palmer said. “I don’t know what it is about the second quarter. It’s just crazy. I don’t know if we have too much adrenaline or we’re nervous (in the first quarter), or what’s going on. But all of a sudden, our offense and defense just start clicking (in the second quarter) and, boom, we just explode.”
After running back Alema Atoafa’s 7-yard touchdown run accounted for all the scoring in the first quarter against Lake County, the Cowboys exploded for 32 points in the second period.
Atoafa scored three times in the second quarter on runs of 45, 15 and 7 yards and receiver Cole Steiner scored on a 60-yard pass play. The Cowboys led 38-0 at halftime. That was the same halftime score the week before against Fruita.
“Cole beat the defensive back one on one and Nate (Walsh) delivered the ball,” Palmer said. “The ball maybe went 10 yards in the air and Cole ran for maybe 50.”
Walsh, a sophomore, started at quarterback in place of senior Trevor Matrisciano, who is out for the season with a knee injury he suffered in the Fruita game.
Walsh was six of 10 passing for 117 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
“You know, he did a great job of managing the game, especially for a sophomore in his first start,” Palmer said of Walsh. “I couldn’t have asked any more of him right now. With the way the offensive line is playing and the way Alema is running, if he (Walsh) can just manage the offense and hit some passes to keep the defense honest, that’s all we’re asking him to do.”
Not only did the Meeker offense score seven times, but Atoafa returned a punt for a touchdown and fellow senior co-captain Jake Nieslanik returned an interception — one of two he had for the game — 53 yards for a score.
“Actually, he had three (interceptions), but one was called back for, I think it was roughing the passer,” Palmer said. “We also recovered four fumbles, two on special teams.”
Meeker’s defense shut out an opponent for the first time this season.
“The defensive line played really well,” Palmer said. “We got a lot of pressure on the quarterback.”
Meeker, 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Western Slope League, will host Paonia on Friday night at Starbuck Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
You can throw out the records for this league matchup, Palmer said.
“Even though Paonia is 1-4, that doesn’t matter,” Palmer said. “(Assistant) coach (Brett) Steinacher said they always come to play. They will be the best team we’ve played all year.”