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MEEKER I “The fans got their money’s worth, I believe,” Meeker High School head football coach Shane Phelan said of the game between the Cowboys and the Paonia Eagles in Starbuck Stadium on Friday, which Meeker lost 22-16.
The Cowboys travel to Cedaredge on Friday for another league game against the Bruins.
“It was a good, physical battle between two physical teams,” Phelan said. “I think the two teams have had success because they are both physical teams.”
Against the Eagles, the Cowboys found it difficult to run the ball, and were forced to punt on their first possession. Paonia scored on its first possession of the game and took an 8-0 lead, the same lead they had into the second quarter.
Meeker was forced to punt their second possession too, but Cade Rowlett recovered the fumble, then he caught a pass from quarterback Jake Phelan and put the Cowboys on the Eagles’ 15 yard line, where Meeker running back T.J. Shelton ran it in for a touchdown. Phelan ran in the two-point conversion and tied the game at 8-8 with 4:38 left in the first half.
Cowboy senior Tristin Pelloni intercepted a pass on Paonia’s next possession, then Shelton ran it to the 12 yard line before fumbling the ball to the Eagles. The Eagles drove the ball down to the 15-yard line, where Meeker’s defense held them on fourth down and went into halftime with the score tied.
Paonia returned the second half kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown but did not convert the extra points to take a quick 14-8 lead in the third quarter.
The Cowboys had to punt their first possession of the second half, then Meeker’s defense stopped the Eagles on fourth down again to get the ball back.
Phelan completed a pass to Shelton, then a 30-yard throw to Raul Lopez and another to Rowlett, and the Cowboys were moving down the field.
Phelan was injured on the drive and was replaced by his freshman cousin, Logan Hughes, who has had success this season quarterbacking the junior varsity team to six wins this season.
Paonia stayed aggressive with the young quarterback and capitalized with an interception in the end zone with 1:24 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Meeker’s defense held the Eagles and Phelan returned to the game on Meeker’s first possession in the fourth quarter, down 14-8. Phelan marched his team to the five-yard line, from where Shelton tied the score on a sweep to the home field sidelines and into the end zone, tying the game and bringing the large hometown crowd to its feet.
Phelan connected with Lopez for the two-point conversion and his team to a 16-14 lead with 5:36 left to play.
The Cowboys could not keep the defending state champions from scoring another touchdown, but they did keep them from scoring extra points, to trail by six, with :34 seconds to play.
Phelan again drove his team down to the five-yard line but time expired and Meeker lost its first game of the season, 22-16.
“I was proud of the kids,” coach Phelan said. “They played extremely hard and with great effort, we just came up a little short. We’ll learn from it (and) build on it to try and turn this disappointment into a positive.”
The Cowboys will travel to Cedaredge on Friday to take on the Bruins, who were the 2A state champions two years ago.
“They are a big, strong team,” Phelan said.