Cowboys race past Fruita JV, 40-21

The Meeker Cowboys used a total team effort to subdue Friday’s opponent. The offense (three touchdowns), the defense (two scores) and the special teams returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, combined to give the ‘Boys a win.
Sebastian Clarke opened the scoring by returning the kickoff 97 yards, surpassing one of the oldest records on the books, held by Chuck Wilson’s 90-yarder in the 1950s. The special team coordinator, Obediah Deming, stressed the kick-off wall all week, and the men in the wall allowed Clarke to get down the field. The extra point attempt failed and Meeker led 6-0 with only a few seconds ticked off the clock.
Clarke, a sophomore, scored 22 points for the Cowboys, with three touchdowns and two 2-point conversions. This tied the fifth highest points in a game for one player, jumping past Chuck Wilson again, who scored 20 points in one game in 1950. The all-time point leader in Meeker history is Alema Atoafa’s 36 points last season. Clarke tied Joe LeBlanc who ran for 22 points in 2006.
Fruita Monument marched down the field at the end of the first quarter, scored and kicked the extra point to take the lead, 7-6. At the end of the first quarter, Tala Atoafa, a 5 foot 11 inch, 160 pound junior, raced 13 yards with an option pitch to up the score to 12-7 in favor of the Cowboys. Outstanding blocking at the corner by Scott Smith opened this area for the score. Atoafa also had a very good block from Justin Giao, a 6 foot, 170 pound sophomore. Again, the extra point failed.
Monument, which has a good passing game, scored on their next drive. They went for two and jumped ahead 15-12 midway through the third quarter. The Cowboys returned the honors by marching 37 yards and getting a touchdown from freshman fullback J.C. Henderson on a 2-yard run to up the score to 18-15. The extra point failed.
The fumble bug hit the Cowboys again, this time with a dropped ball near the Cowboys’ own goal line. This allowed for a short touchdown drive and the lead changed 21-18 in favor of Fruita. The Cowboys fumbled again on their next drive but the defense stopped Fruita’s attempt to up their lead. On the next drive, the Meeker men traveled 86 yards in only four plays to boost their lead to 24-21. The drive featured a 31-yard run by Tala Atoafa and a 47-yard TD run by Clarke. Both the plays were set up with very good blocking and outstanding reading of the option by quarterback Phelan.
Fruita Monument again moved the ball well, but Willis Begaye stepped in front of a pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown. Clarke ran for the extra points, and Meeker led 32-21. Monument was not through yet, however, and they marched down the field only to be stopped at the goal line when Jake Phelan intercepted a ball on the goal line. The Cowboys moved for a few first downs and then punted. Monument moved slowly up the field, then dropped the ball on a run. Kevin Eli scooped the ball up and ran 65 yards for another Meeker defensive score. Clarke again ran for the extra points and a 40-21 Meeker lead.
Leading rusher was Tala Atoafa, who ran 10 times for 122 yards, followed by Clarke (seven carries for 88 yards). Freshman QB Jake Phelan, making his first start, ran twelve times for 34 yards. He hit two out of three passes for 38 yards. Junior QB Nathan Walsh threw five times, completing two for 45 yards. The 221 pound senior fullback Collin Cochran ran eleven times for 34 tough yards. Freshman fullback Henderson had eight totes for 62 yards. Clarke also returned three kicks for 152 yards. Clarke had a full day, punting three times for 112 yards plus handing the KO chores. The tailback position used two men, and they combined for 14 attempts and 206 yards. The fullback position had three men run 23 times for 96 yards.
The defense was led by sophomore Willis Begaye, who had a “monster game,” according to defensive coach Aaron Zielinske. He had the high tackle total of 17, recovered two fumbles, plus intercepted a pass and ran it back for 65 yards. He also made an outstanding catch of the football near the opponents’ sideline but when he came down from his high jump he landed out of bounds. This pass breakup stopped a Monument drive. Outstanding defensive play was had by Reno Royball, who had 12 tackles; Scott Smith (12), Charles Scherbath (11), Nate Walsh (9), eight by Tala and seven each from Alex Smith and last week’s leading tackler, J.R. Crawford. Scott Smith continues to lead the Cowboys in tackles, with 54 in four games. He is followed by Atoafa (49), Reno Roybal (48) and Begaye (40). The Cowboys had three interceptions, by Begaye, Clarke and Jake Phelan.
It’s Meeker’s homecoming week and the first home game in 2011 is this Friday. Be there.

Did you know? Casey Sullivan punted the ball for the longest punt in Meeker history, hitting a 67-yarder in 2002.