MEEKER I Five years had passed since the Meeker Cowboys qualified for the 1A Colorado state football playoffs. While there this year, they won two games before ending their season in Buena Vista, losing in the semifinals to the Demons 48-18.
The Cowboys finished the season with a 10-2 record, the losses coming from the two teams playing for the state championship Saturday, the Demons and the defending state champion Paonia Eagles.
In the semifinal game on a cold field in Buena Vista, the teams stayed hot by scoring five touchdowns in the first quarter.
The Demons scored first, but the Cowboys answered quickly, when senior Raul Lopez returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at six.
The Demons scored two more times in the first quarter before the Cowboys capitalized on a fumble recovery by senior Matt Frantz, who returned it 27 yards to put his team in good field position for quarterback Jake Phelan to score from 15 yards out and make the score 20-12 at the end of the first quarter.
“It was a good contest at the beginning, then Buena Vista made plays when they needed too and we didn’t,” Meeker head coach Shane Phelan said.
The Demons scored two more touchdowns late in the second quarter and took a 34-12 lead at halftime. The Cowboys could not recover in the second half.
“Their quarterback was quite a load to bring down,” Coach Phelan said of Buena Vista junior Keegan Wentz, who stands 6-feet-2 and weighs 210 pounds.
Wentz completed nine of 13 passes, three of which were for touchdowns and a total of 117 yards, and he rushed for 173 yards and two more touchdowns to help his team advance to the championship game.
“We had to play catch-up in the second half and take more risks, but we couldn’t get anything to work,” Coach Phelan said. The Cowboys compiled 157 offensive yards and Buena Vista gained more than 500.
Buena Vista would score a touchdown in each of the final two quarters while Meeker scored one more in the fourth, when Phelan connected with senior Cade Rowlett for a 50-yard touchdown, the Cowboys’ final score of the season.
“I’m proud of how hard our kids played all season,” Coach Phelan said. “This was an outstanding group of young men to work with. They improved every week, worked hard and they did everything we asked of them.”
Coach Phelan said the future of the Meeker football program is “bright.”
“It was good to get back to the playoffs, it’s an expectation of ours to make the playoffs every year,” he said.
“We will learn from our playoff experience, of how to compete at that level and maybe it will be used as fuel in the off season to prepare for next year.”