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Atoafa, Nieslanik have big games as Meeker defeats Fruita JV 50-19
MEEKER I Three Saturday games. Three wins.
And not just wins, but dominating wins.
Yes, Saturdays have been good to the Cowboys.
Or, the Cowboys have been good on Saturdays. Really good.
In its final non-league game — as well as its final Saturday game — Meeker routed Class 5A Fruita Monument’s junior varsity 50-19 at Starbuck Stadium.
“We wanted to use this as a good tuneup for conference play,” said coach Jeff Palmer.
The 1A Cowboys open conference play Friday night at Leadville against Lake County, a team new to the Western Slope League.
Palmer admitted not knowing a whole lot about this week’s opponent.
“It’s a long trip,” Palmer said. “All I know is you go to Vail and hang a right and keep climbing. You have to get ready to play at 10,125 feet. That’s what the altitude at the field is at.”
If Alema Atoafa runs like he did Saturday against Fruita, they may need to have an oxygen tank for him on the sideline. The senior co-captain rushed 29 times for 247 yards and two touchdowns. And that was just on offense.
On the defensive side, Atoafa, who plays linebacker, returned a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown and returned an interception 65 yards for a score.
“We knew we were going to give him the ball a lot with Toby (Casias) out. Usually they split the carries,” Palmer said. “But with Toby out (with a stress fracture in his foot), he got just about all the carries, and he produced.”
With Casias out — he’s questionable for Friday’s game, too — the Cowboys went to a single-back formation. And when Atoafa wasn’t getting the call, quarterback Trevor Matrisciano was airing out the ball. Mostly to tight end Jake Nieslanik.
Nieslanik, another senior co-captain, caught four passes for a whopping 161 yards and two touchdowns — the first two scores of the game. Nieslanik’s first TD pass was a 30-yarder. The second score, when he split the defense and was off to the races, went for 76 yards.
The Cowboys led 38-0 at halftime, but late in the second quarter, they lost the services of Matrisciano due to an injury.
“With about 15 seconds left in the second, he got tackled and his knee rolled,” Palmer said.
An MRI on Monday revealed Matrisciano has a torn ACL and will require surgery. He will likely miss the rest of the season. The same thing happened to his older brother, Tyler, during his senior year. Tyler, who also played quarterback for the Cowboys, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the 2008 season.
Sophomore Nate Walsh came in and played quarterback for the Cowboys in the second half.
“After Trevor got hurt, Nate did a good job managing the offense,” Palmer said. “He hadn’t had a lot of snaps with the first team. But he stayed calm and did a good job working the first team offense.
“We were obviously better with Trevor, a senior, but I think we’ll be OK with Nate,” Palmer said.
As for Atofa, who has made big plays all season long, Palmer was asked what he could to top last week’s game.
“I’m going to let him start calling the plays,” the MHS coach said, joking. “That’s about the only thing he could do to top it.
“That was probably one of the best games, offensively and defensively, I’ve ever seen,” Palmer said. “He just took over the game, both ways. Sometimes you’ll see a kid take over on offense or on defense. He took over the both ways.”