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By Bobby Gutierrez
meeker I “In football, the season ends abruptly,” Meeker head coach Shane Phelan said after his team lost 14-18 in the quarterfinal round of the 1A Colorado State Football Championship playoffs in Limon against the Badgers, the most accomplished football program in Colorado history.
“For our seniors, we hoped they would get another home game, they did a lot of good things for Meeker football and should keep their heads up,” coach Phelan said of seniors Garrett Frantz, Jerrick Garza, Logan Hughes, Doak Mantle, Trapper Merrifield, Eli Newman, Jacob Pelloni and Valentin Rosas.
For this year’s seniors, it was the second year in a row entering the state playoffs undefeated and the fourth year in a row qualifying for the state championship playoffs, playing in 11 post season games, which is two more than a nine-game regular season. This year’s seniors recorded a 39-8 overall record, advancing to the state semifinals as freshmen, losing twice in the state quarterfinals and playing in the state championship game last year.
“They had a pretty good high school career,” coach Phelan said.
The Badgers stopped Meeker’s opening possession, then blocked the Cowboys’ punt and started their first possession on the 27-yard line and rushed for a nine-yard touchdown a few plays later, kicked an extra point and took an early 7-0 lead.
The Cowboys came back with their own drive, with senior quarterback Logan Hughes connecting with his favorite target, classmate Trapper Merrifield, moving the ball to the two-yard line, where senior running back Doak Mantle scored. Mantle also ran in the two-point conversion to give his team an 8-7 lead.
Both defenses forced punts and neither team was able to score in the second quarter.
“Our defense stopped them but let them chew up the clock and limited our offensive opportunities,” coach Phelan said.
The Badgers started with the ball in the second half and scored on a 25-yard halfback pass, adding a two point conversion to take a 15-8 lead
Meeker would turn the ball over on downs on its next possession and the Badgers capitalized with a field goal to get their final points in the third quarter, enough to win the game.
Meeker would pull within four after Hughes and Merrifield connected for a 15th time for a touchdown this season but they would not be able to score any more, making the final score 14-18.
“They run the ball and dominate the clock and we were unable to get as many opportunites as we would have liked,” coach Phelan said. “We had opportunities and plenty of chances, we were just not able to capitalize on them. When you get in the playoffs against quality opponents, you have to take advantage of all your opportunities and we just missed some by a whisker.”
Hughes completed eight of 17 passes for 108 yards and carried the ball eight times for eight yards. Mantle carried the ball 16 times for 70 yards and one touchdown. Merrifield caught four passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, while fullback Eli Hanks caught three passes for 36 yards.
Junior James Amick led the Cowboys with 14 tackles, Mantle had 13 and senior Eli Newman finished the game with 11. Sophomore linebacker Tevin Pelloni was in on 10 tackles, junior Tannen Kennedy had nine, while senior Jacob Pelloni and Hughes each recorded eight tackles.
“They are a great group of kids, that worked hard and will be sorely missed,” coach Phelan said of the seniors on his team. “I enjoyed every minute of time with them and disappointed their time got cut a touch short.
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