MEEKER I The Meeker High School football team will enter the 1A – Colorado state football playoffs after a 36-14 win against the Hotchkiss Bulldogs in the final game of the regular season, played in Starbuck Stadium on Friday.
The Cowboys (6-3), finished second to Paonia in the Northwest League, and, as the No. 10 seed, Meeker will play the No. 7, Platte Canyon Huskies (7-1) in Bailey on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Cowboys scored two touchdowns in the first quarter against Hotchkiss and put the game away in the second quarter, when they scored three more times to lead 36-0 at halftime.
“They came out with great enthusiasm and intensity and jumped on them from the get-go,” Meeker head coach Shane Phelan said of his team’s play. “Our passing game was pretty sharp and our running game was pretty sharp.”
The Cowboys gained almost 350 yards on offense, including 90 in the air, and seven players carried the ball for 258 yards rushing.
Sophomore quarterback Logan Hughes completed six of 13 pass attempts to four different receivers for 90 yards, including one for a touchdown to Hunter Garcia. Meeker senior Devon Pontine caught three passes for 64 yards, including one for 32. Sheridan Harvey and T.J. Shelton each caught a pass from Hughes as well.
Shelton averaged 10.9 yards per carry, gaining 175 yards on 16 carries, and he scored Meeker’s four other touchdowns. Hughes, Pontine and Harvey also ran with the ball, as did Casey Turner, Doak Mantle and Eli Hanks.
“Hotchkiss was able to move the ball a little on us in the first half, then our defense tightened their grip on them,” coach Phelan said. “Our offense shut out their defense and our defense shut out their offense.”
Turner led the Cowboys on defense by recording 19 tackles. Pontine and Chase Rule each recorded 17.
Seniors Dillon Frantz and Jacob Nielsen, along with junior Caleb Bradford, all recorded sacks for the Cowboys. Frantz and Bradford each had two.
The Cowboys are on the bottom side of the 16-team bracket, along with two-time defending state champion Paonia and No. 2 seeded Resurrection Christian, which Meeker will play in the second round if both teams win on Saturday.
“I like our draw in the bracket, but we have to take care of first things first,” coach Phelan said. “It’s exciting to be in the playoffs again.
“Bailey has a pretty potent running game with one of the state’s leading rushers, and they like to try to outmuscle you down the field,” Phelan said. “We have to go on the road, into a hostile environment to play a tough football team, and see where we go from there.”