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MEEKER I The Meeker Cowboys won their second game of the year with a victory over one of their oldest rivals Friday night. It was only the second home game of the season for the well-traveled ‘Pokes. Key to the win was defensive coordinator Aaron Zielinske’s unit, which limited their opponents to under 100 yards in total offense for the night.
Another major plug for the Cowboys was the kicking of newcomer Cooper Smith. His towering kick-offs and two field goals (one for 38 yards and another for 42 yards) aided the win and were a welcome plus for the Black, Gold and Silver.
Meeker used two quarterbacks throughout the night and both performed well, leading the team to 26 points against a well-coached Rangely unit.
“I felt the Rangely coaching staff did a really good job and they make both the offensive and defensive Cowboy units work hard throughout the night. They made us “Bleed-Yardage” on offense, going 2, 3 or 4 yards at a time for most of the evening,” remarked Cowboy head coach Ron DuPree.
The Cowboy offensive unit had 64 plays for 400-plus yards with 22 first downs added into the time consuming attack. Meeker has less than 15 games in history with 20 or more first downs in a single game and major credit has to go to the offensive line of Austin Brown, Reno Roybal, center Aaron Pena, freshman Joseph Newman and Ethan Overton. It was the opening up of holes in the offensive attack, coached by Brandon Aven, that allowed the ‘Boys to play keep-away. The addition of Ruben Roybal, a 178-pound freshman tackle, and Ricky Jeffrey, a 252-pound sophomore guard, added to the offensive front wall’s attack.
It was a tight game when sophomore Sebastian Clarke broke away on a 39-yard touchdown run to start the scoring late in the first quarter. The Cowboys had been driving in small chunks when he took the option pitch, cut back and turned on his speed to glide into the end-zone. Blocks at the corner by end Alex Smith and blocking back Justin Giao paved the way for the speedy tailback. Cooper hit the extra point and the ‘Boys led 7-0.
After the kickoff the Black and Gold defense held the visiting team to zero first downs and the Cowboys were in business again. Strong runs by Rual Lopez, freshman QB, and junior fullback Tala Atoafa moved the ball down the field. Quarterback Nathan Walsh then hit Kevin Eli with a 28-yard scoring strike. It was an outstanding run after the catch that propelled Kevin into the paydirt. Again, Cooper Smith kicked the extra point and the ‘Boys led 14-0 late in the second quarter.
The defensive unit stopped them again and the Cowboys finished the first half scoring with a 38-yard field goal by Cooper Smith. The Black and Gold went into the half with a 17-0 lead.
Meeker received the second half kickoff and drove the ball the length of the field for a touchdown. The drive took up most of the time in the third quarter. Atoafa finished the drive with a tough 4-yard run up the middle for the touchdown. The extra point was no good and Meeker led 23-0 entering the fourth quarter.
The ‘Boys weren’t finished yet. With the defensive line making it very hard for Rangely to move the football, the Cowboys went to work on another long drive. It was fueled by a 37-yard run by Lopez. Rangely slowed the ‘Boys down and Cooper kicked another field goal to take a 26-0 lead. This completed the scoring.
The defense got good play from defensive end Scott Smith, who had nine tackles, and six of those were behind the line of scrimmage. This is an outstanding total, maybe the best in school history. Smith has a team-leading 17 tackles behind the LOS this season. Other leading defensive men were Kevin Eli, with 11 tackles and a key interception stopping a Rangely drive. He has some of the best hard hits for the year. Willis Begaye played another outstanding game and contributed with eight tackles, linebacker Tala Atoafa (8), Reno Roybal (8), JR Crawford with nine from his defensive line position, safety Nathan Walsh (6), and a good game was turned in by cornerbacker Charles Scherbath, who had five tackles.
Leading rusher for the game was Clarke, with 11 carries for 114 yards. Lopez followed with 88 yards on 14 attempts and Walsh with 61 rushing yards on seven carries. The QB position rushed 21 times for 149 yards. Senior fullback Collin Cochran ran 10 times for 27 yards. J.C. Henderson added 12 yards on four carries. All in all, the fullback position attacked the opponent 20 times for 77 yards. Atoafa added 38 yards to the rushing totals. This was a good total-team effort with each position adding to the victory. Both the tailback and quarterback positions went more than 100 yards rushing. Walsh completed four of 10 passes for 92 yards. Alex Smith made an outstanding catch on a 36-yarder from Walsh to keep a drive going. Alex has 18 catches for the year and a very good 16.4 yards average per catch. The leading receiver for the season is Kevin Eli with 19.
The Cowboys started 18 different players, which may be an all-time high for a Meeker team. All in all, 27 players played key roles in this victory and add to the total team concept. Eighteen men have played more than 100 plays this season and 28 have played in a varsity game.
Leading tacklers for the season: Scott Smith 81, Tala Atoafa 79, Reno Roybal 74, Willis Begaye 65 and J.R. Crawford 59.
Did you know? The 2005 team, coached by Meeker’s own Shane Phelan, ran and passed for a school record 25 first downs in one game.