LONGMONT — As the kicker and a prominent player on special teams and defense, Skyline's Nate McGregor is used to the speed of the game.
But when he was inserted as the quarterback late in the second quarter of the Falcons' homecoming game against Grand Junction because of an injury to Ben Harris, it was still an uneasy sort of feeling for the sophomore.
"You prepare for it, but at the same time you don't expect it to happen as soon as it did," McGregor said.
The change may have been sudden, but the SHS coaching staff made sure to show their trust in him by keeping the ball in his hands often. And as part of a 35-28 win over the Tigers that came down to the wire, they also did not hold him back.
A 33-yard designed run on his first play helped calm him a bit, and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jack Wathen later in the fourth quarter displayed a quiet confidence that McGregor was ready to take the helm.
And now the Falcons are 4-0.
"We just want to do something special for the school and the community because we've been down for awhile now," McGregor said after being congratulated by what felt like the entire student body. "Our young players, the freshmen and sophomores, are the next group up to get that done."
Indeed the Falcons as a unit are getting it done. Twice they've blown out their opponents, but twice now also have they had to hang on to a win.
The Falcons gained a 21-7 lead by halftime thanks to three rushing touchdowns, but the Tigers (0-4) would not go away quietly. They made it 21-14 early in the third quarter with help from an interception McGregor wanted back, and the Tigers had another chance on its next possession to tie the game but were stuffed on a fourth down play at the Skyline 28.
McGregor's first pass completion went downfield for 13 yards, and the Falcons converted a 4th-and-short play at the GJHS 35 before McGregor got the chance to loft a ball into the end zone to Wathen, making the score 28-14.
Late in the game and with the score 35-28, Grand Junction had one last chance with the ball at its own 49. A fourth-down conversion and a 28-yard pass from Jax Nourse to Nate Hale set the Tigers up with a first down at the SHS 4 with seconds to go, but a fumble on the first play after a timeout gave the Falcons a chance to kneel out the win.
Senior tailback Nate Higgins had another big game rushing for 137 yards and three touchdowns, and Moses Rivera also had a scoring run. The Falcons will have plenty of momentum for a big non-league showdown next week against Niwot.
"The biggest thing is just that we never stopped with the effort. We made some mistakes but they battled and stood to the challenge," Skyline head coach Mike Silva said. "(McGregor) is our backup quarterback and he's gotten the reps. Our message to him was, 'you go be you' and he did that for us.
"Our guys stood behind him and that played a huge role in his confidence."
Skyline 35, Grand Junction 28
At Everly-Montgomery FieldGrand Junction (0-4) 0 7 7 14 — 28
Skyline — Nate Higgins 1 run (Nate McGregor kick). Skyline — Moses Rivera 16 run (McGregor kick). Grand Junction — Michael White 47 pass from Jax Nourse (Tyler Mower kick). Skyline — Higgins 4 run (McGregor kick).
Grand Junction — White 6 run (Mower kick).
Skyline — Jack Wathen 29 pass from McGregor (McGregor kick). Grand Junction — Nourse 34 run (Mower kick). Skyline — Higgins 1 run (McGregor kick). Grand Junction — White 14 pass from Nourse (Mower kick).
RUSHING — Grand Junction: Michael White 32-148, Jax Nourse 9-56, Shawn Garcia 7-29, Jeffrey Dottson 5-5, Christian Dennis 3-31, Hunter Tobiasson 1-4. Skyline: Nate Higgins 23-137, Nate McGregor 10-61, Ben Harris 4-36, Moses Rivera 1-16, Kyle West 1-6.
PASSING — Grand Junction: Nourse 8-14-0-130. Skyline: Harris 1-7-0-18, McGregor 2-3-1-42.
RECEIVING — Grand Junction: Cam Dottson 3-16, White 2-61, Nate Hale 1-28, Derek Shaver 3-25. Skyline: Hunter Gutierrez 1-18, Braden Kram 1-13, Jack Wathen 1-29.