LONGMONT -- After finishing 2-8 last season, the Niwot football team was in desperate need of a stabilizing force.
The Cougars may have found it in first-year quarterback Bryan Meek.
Niwot beat cross-town rival Skyline 23-16 on Friday night in the teams' season opener.
The Cougars senior ran for 111 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a 47-yard dash in the fourth quarter. He also passed for 215 yards including a 65-yard third quarter touchdown to senior Jake Thramann. Not bad for a pressure-filled debut.
"In the first start there are some nerves, but my receivers and my line did a great job," Meek said. "We were just trying to get as many yards as we could and keep their offense off the field, especially with a guy like (Falcons quarterback) Garret Angstead. He's just a warrior. I took whatever was there so it was good game." After returning from a brief injury that sidelined him for a chunk of the fourth quarter, Angstead completed a 65-yard pass to wide receiver Justin Forsyth (109 yards) that gave the Falcons a first down at the Cougars' 29-yard line with less than a minute left.
On the next play, however, the Cougars chased Angstead from the pocket and forced him to throw against his body and into Cougars linebacker Danny Caruso's waiting arms. The interception sealed the win.
The Cougars' dismal 2012 campaign began with a 41-21 at the hands of the Falcons. On the same field, Caruso said the Cougars needed to start the season differently a year later.
"It was our No. 1 goal on our goal chart, it's all we've been talking about and it really changed it for the community of Niwot to show that we're here to play this season," Caruso said.
The Cougars executed consistently during the unveiling of their new up-tempo, read-option attack in head coach Josh Brewer's second season. Still, the Falcons led 13-6 at halftime and Friday's game was tied 16-16 with 1:22 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons defense forced three fumbles and recovered two, one of which Zach Tovar picked up and returned for a 25-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Angstead, who accounted for four touchdowns in last year's game, passed for 199 yards, including a second-quarter touchdown to Kenny McQueen, and ran for 100 more.
"We wanted to stop the run first," Niwot senior lineman Blake Montgomery said. "He's a dual-threat but we were focused on containing him on the outside." The Falcons are 20-69 since 2004 but finished 5-5 last year. Head coach Kevin Rice said they missed some opportunities early in the game that could have helped extend their lead.
"This game comes down to basics, it always does. If you can win your individual match-ups, block and tackle, you're going to win," Rice said. "This is the first game, it's not the last. All of our goals are still there and we believe in our kids as much as we did before this game. We have to give credit to the Niwot players and coaches. That's a much-improved team." The Cougars host their first home game next Friday when they take on Standley Lake at Everly-Montgomery Field. The Falcons will hit the road to take on Thompson Valley that same day.
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Niwot 23, Skyline 16
At Everly-Montgomery Field
Niwot (1-0) 6 0 10 7 -- 23
Skyline (0-1) 0 13 3 0 -- 16
Niwot -- Bryan Meek 19 run (bad snap on kick).
Skyline --Kenny McQueen 19 pass from Garret Angstead (kick no good).
Skyline -- Zach Tovar 25 fumble return (Seth Thomas kick).
Niwot -- David Voss 35 field goal.
Niwot -- Jake Thramann 65 pass from Meek (Voss kick).
Skyline -- Thomas 22 field goal.
Niwot -- Meek 47 run (Voss kick).
RUSHING -- Niwot: Jack Setter 19-60, Bryan Meek 15-111, Danny Caruso 1-3, Joey Lambert 4-3; Skyline: Seth Thomas 4-3, Garret Angstead 14-100, Benny Jacobs 7-(-12), Josh Angstead 4-(-8).
PASSING (comp-att-int-yards) -- Niwot: Meek 13-23-0, 215; Skyline: G. Angstead 13-29-1, 199 yards; J. Angstead 1-3-0, 30 yards.
RECEIVING -- Niwot: Justin Lee 1-24, Jake Thramann 5-139, Elijah Noterman 3-19, Jessie Slepicka 4-33; Skyline: Justin Forsyth 4-109, Seth Thomas 1-3, Dominic Mansanares 3-47, Kenny McQueen 2-32, Benny Jacobs 3-36, Joe Benavides 1-4.