DENVER — If the Niwot football team is going to break it's long losing streak this season, the Cougars are going to have to do a much better job of avoiding self-harm than they did in Friday afternoon's season opener at All-City Stadium.
Niwot, which hasn't won a game since Sept. 16 of 2016 — now an 18-game stretch — continually shot itself in the foot during the early part of the contest with George Washington, leading to a disappointing 36-0 defeat at the hands of the Patriots.
The Cougars played the game without head coach Jeremy Lanter, who was serving a one-game suspension after the team self-reported a practice violation — the squad was in full pads before they were supposed to be. And they never really seemed to find their rhythm, continually giving George Washington a short field to work with.
A 12-yard punt, a fumbled snap and a 59-yard punt return allowed the Patriots, a squad that also struggled out of the gate, to build a 13-0 lead by the end of the first quarter — a period that saw Niwot finish with negative offensive yards.
"We hurt ourselves," said Stan Matsanaka, who took over head coaching duties with Lanter sidelined. "It's not like the other team just took it to us, we just hurt ourselves. Turnovers and missed assignments for big plays. Those are all things we can fix."
With momentum clearly on it's side, George Washington started to put things together, adding a long touchdown pass and a safety before the half, and then salting away the game with a 64-yard touchdown pass from Jaydon Green to Bryan Medina on the second snap of the third quarter.
Green added a 95-yard touchdown pass in the fourth and finished with 328 yards passing to pace the Patriots. They also got a great defensive game from 6-foot-2, 205-pound defensive end Grant Pullen, who wreaked havoc on Niwot sophomore quarterback Ayden Bartko, finishing with four sacks and a safety.
The Cougars, meanwhile, finished with under 100 yards of offense. Matsanaka said with so many players seeing varsity action for the first time, it's understandable that the team struggled.
"They're going to get better," Matsanaka said. "Their first experience taking a varsity snap for most of them. They didn't realize the speed of the game and the intensity of the game. Now they have the feel of it.
"So now we have something to talk about in practice next week and how to amp it up."
John Rosa: 303-684-5212, firstname.lastname@example.org
George Washington 36, Niwot 0
At All-City StadiumNiwot (0-1)0000—0George Washington (1-0)13977—36
GW — Ramirez 25 field goal. GW — Medina 14 run (Ramirez kick))GW — Ramirez 33 field goal
GW — Johnson-Humphrey 40 pass from Green (Ramirez kick)GW — Pullen safety
GW — Medina 64 pass from Green (Ramirez kick)
GW — Johnson-Humphrey 95 pass (Ramirez kick)
RUSHING — Niwot: Flanagan 14-25, Franco 2-18, Molina 2-9, Terry 1-6, Colon 2-3, Bartko 6-minus 37. GW: Qui 13-69, Utsey 3-27, Everett 1-25, Medina 3-24, Green 4-19, Johnson-Humphrey 1-2, Barajas 1-minus 1.
PASSING — Niwot: Bartko 6-12-0-73. GW: Green 17-27-0-328.
RECEIVING — Niwot: Colon 2-22, Noterman 1-29, Flanagan 1-9, Franco 1-7, Roberts 1-6. GW: Johnson-Humphrey 6-176, Medina 3-107, Everett 3-28, Qui 2-3, Wolfer 1-10, Utsey 1-4, Medina 1-0.