LONGMONT — Niwot’s football team has been through a lot already this season. After the first half against Loveland on Friday, it appeared as though the Cougars had put it all behind them.
But they couldn’t continue their solid play into the second half and lost 28-13.
The Cougars fumbled the opening kickoff, losing the ball to the Indians on their own 22-yard line. But they forced a turnover on downs and marched down the field on a 14-play drive that ended in a Dillon Manzanares touchdown.
The Cougars halted the next two Indians drives with an Elijah Noterman interception and a turnover on downs. Noterman’s pick led to a Tommy Dyer 33-yard field goal.
The Indians scored on a 50-yard run by Greg Hecker and the Cougars knocked in another field goal before halftime. Cougars senior Nick Stager said not turning defensive stops into touchdowns hurt them.
“That was probably the biggest thing: we didn’t punch it in,” Stager said. “If we go into half 21-0, they’re done, you know. But we come in 13-8, they get the ball in the second half and after that it’s just a momentum game.”
Despite an early fumble recovery by Manzanares, who finished with 143 yards on 21 carries, the momentum turned to the Indians in the second half and they outscored the Cougars 20-0 in the second half.
Nearly everything that went wrong for the Cougars seemed to wait until the last 24 minutes of the game.
After a stellar 7-for-9, 99-yard passing performance in the first half, Cougars quarterback Nate Merriman went 1-for-8 and threw two interceptions in the second.
The Indians converted on four fourth downs in the second half, including a 15-yard touchdown pass and a 31-yard run that sealed the Cougars’ fate with less than three minutes remaining.
“That’s just been a microcosm of the last couple years, (not getting) big plays when we needed stops,” said Tesone, who also said the Indians’ huge offensive line caused problems on short yardage. “The size of that Loveland line after a while just beats you down, beats you down. It made a difference in the end.”
Having committed just two penalties in the first half, the Cougars racked up six for 45 yards in the second. Many of them came at crucial moments in the fourth quarter.
Penalties bogged down a fourth-quarter drive that could have given the Cougars back the lead. After that drive ended in an interception, Cougars defensive coordinator Jim Tesone accidentally collided with a sideline official on third-and-eight on the ensuing drive. The mishap drew an automatic 15-yard penalty and an Indians first down at the Cougars 15-yard line. The Indians scored on the next play.
“We were sideline impeding. That’s a big play. That would have been fourth down at the 15-13,” Tesone said. “So, the score was not indicative of how well we played, but a loss is a loss. We had a few untimely penalties when most of the game we played pretty clean.”
It won’t get any easier for the Cougars, who face No. 3 Longmont next week.
Brad Cochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Loveland 28, Niwot 13
At Niwot H.S.
Loveland (1-4, 1-1) 0 8 0 20 — 28
Niwot (1-3, 0-3) 7 6 0 0 — 13
Niwot — Manzanares 20 run (Tommy Dyer kick).
Niwot — Dyer 33 field goal.
Loveland — Greg Hecker 50 run (Geoff call 3 pass from Ryan McClaughan).
Niwot — Dyer 23 field goal.
Loveland — Hecker 15 pass from Mike Zweigle (Robbie Hale kick).
Loveland — Hecker 15 run (Hale kick).
Loveland — Hecker 7 run (2-point failed).
First downs 14 15
Rushes-yards 47-284 34-165
Passing yards 142 110
Comp-Att-Int 9-12-1 8-17-2
Punts-Avg. 0-0 2-33.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 7-50 8-60
RUSHING — Loveland: Willie Dunkleman 10-109, Taylor Appleby 2-(minus 6), Mike Roth 4-11, Kris Garcia 2-8, Zweigle 5-12, Hecker 15-123, Call 8-23, McCloughan 1-4; Niwot: Manzanares 21-143, Jake Sarosi 4-13, Nate Merriman 4-(minus 7), Nick Stager 5-16.
PASSING (comp-att-int-yards) –Loveland: Zweigle 9-12-1-139, McCloughan 1-1-0-3; Niwot: Merriman 8-17-2-110.
RECEIVING — Loveland: Kirk Shaw 5-73, John Freismuth 3-51, Call 2-12, Hecker 1-15; Niwot: McCaddon 3-49, Sarosi 2-30, Elijah Noterman 1-16, Cahilll Kelleghan 1-5, Kyle Conarro 1-11.