Boulder coach Vincent Smith understands there's going to be plenty of rough patches on the road to rebuilding the Panthers football program to past glory.
One such spot came Thursday evening.
Despite a great start by Boulder as it raced out to a 12-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Panthers couldn't keep up with visiting Legend as they fell in front of a sparse crowd at Recht Field 44-26.
"We've made some strides, we've done some things," Smith said. "We're fighting a little bit harder and a little bit longer. We just have to finish.
"It's a process and it's not always as swift as we would like."
The game couldn't have started better for Boulder (1-4), as Alex Kahn stepped in front of a Micah Butte pass attempt and returned it 52 yards for a score on the Titans first play from scrimmage.
Kahn read the play beautifully, as wideout Tannen Hyer started spread wide to the right, went in motion and then looked for a pass from Butte in the flat out to the left. But Kahn saw it all the way and took the pass the other way to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead with 6 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first quarter.
Boulder forced Legend (3-2) to go three-and-out on its next possession, and then moved the ball 59 yards in 12 plays, capped by Patrick Fletcher's 1-yard touchdown run, to push the lead to 12-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
But it was all Titans after that, as Legend running back Caden Meis found his stride and gashed the Panthers defense with a 76-yard burst three plays later, setting up a 1-yard Meis TD run on the next play.
That was the first of 24 consecutive points by Legend, aided by a couple of Boulder turnovers and a special teams blunder that led to a negative 8 yard punt.
"We had some mistakes out there," Smith said. "It cost us. You can't make mistakes like that when you're trying to rebuild and rebound. You just can't make the mistakes that we made."
The Panthers would stem the tide a little with a 44-yard Sam Lowery field goal on the final play of the first half, cutting the deficit to 24-15.
Lowery would add a 28 yard field goal in the third quarter, but the Titans owned the second half, scoring TDs on their first three possessions.
Meis, who had three touchdown runs, finished with 238 yards on 26 carries.
Cade Travis got the start under center for Boulder in the game, and tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cole Peterson on the Panthers final drive. Travis finished 10 of 23 for 106 yards and two interceptions, and Smith said he saw some good things from the junior in his first chance as a starting QB.
"I thought (Travis) did a good job for a short week," Smith said. "He didn't do anything necessarily to hurt us when the game was a game. Obviously we had to take some chances, and you run the risk of bad things happening."
Legend was able to hold Fletcher, who was averaging 152.5 yards rushing a game heading into the contest, to 62 yards on 25 carries. Shane Provost had a good day on the ground, however, picking up 102 yards on 10 carries.
Things don't get any easier for Boulder next week as they travel to Grandview to open up Mt. Massive league play against the Wolves.
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Legend 44, Boulder 26
At Recht FieldLegend (3-2)024137—44
Boulder — Alex Kahn 52 interception return (run fail).
Boulder — Patrick Fletcher 1 run (run fail). Legend — Cade Meis 1 run (Nick Neate kick). Legend — Meis 2 run (Neate kick). Legend — Justin Boyd 20 pass from Micah Butte (Neate kick). Legend — Neate 31 kick. Boulder — Sam Lowery 44 kick.
Legend — Tanner Hyer 24 pass from Butte (Neate kick). Boulder — Lowery 28 kick. Legend — Meis 58 run (kick fail).
Legend — Quinten Hayward 44 pass from Butte (Ben Rosenbach kick). Boulder — Cole Peterson 13 pass from Cade Travis (Fletcher run).
RUSHING — Legend: Meis 26-238, Blake Rarog 10-45, Butte 1-21. Boulder: Shane Provost 10-102, Fletcher 25-62, C. Travis 10-47, Ryan Travis 1-3, Junior Escobar 2-(minus) 5.
PASSING — Legend: Butte 7-14-1-135. Boulder: C. Travis 10-23-2-106.
RECEIVING — Legend: Hayward 2-66, Hyer 2-31, Boyd 1-20, Andrew Dore 1-18, Meis 1-0. Boulder: R. Travis 3-29, Wilson Maier 2-24, Provost 2-18, Jack Braymiller 1-13, Peterson 1-13, Fletcher 1-4.