LOVELAND — If building a solid foundation for future success was the primary goal of the 2012 campaign for first-year Niwot football coach Josh Brewer, then the Cougars ended their season on Thursday with plenty of positives to fall back on.
Niwot enjoyed one of its better rushing games of the season and showed a resiliency in the second half that was lacking many times this season. However, one thing that unfortunately was missing for the Cougars was enough points on the scoreboard, as Niwot dropped a 38-20 decision at Thompson Valley.
After coming out of the locker room with a strong drive in the third quarter that tied the game at 14-14, the Cougars were outscored 24-6 the rest of the way as a Thompson Valley rushing attack that produced five touchdowns gradually wore down Niwot’s defense.
Niwot completed its first season under Brewer with a 2-8 mark, the same record they produced last year under former coach Ron Tesone.
“The tough thing was getting started so late,” said Brewer, who was hired in May. “It would have been nice to maybe come in in the winter and get the whole offseason conditioning program. That’s really where the foundation is set. So we kind of missed out on that. But as far as the schemes and the techniques that we put in, I think we did a pretty decent job.
“Obviously when you finish a season 2-8 nobody is ever going to be happy. But I think that’ll be good, because we’re all competitive people and that will give us a marker for the start this spring.”
Niwot trailed 14-6 at halftime but, after forcing the Thompson Valley to go three-and-out on the opening drive of the third quarter, the Cougars immediately roared back into the game.
As he has all season, senior quarterback Nate Merriman carried the Cougars’ offense, hitting Elijah Noterman for a 30-yard pass and recording a 19-yard run to set up a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jake Sarosi. A successful 2-point conversion pulled the Cougars into a 14-14 tie with 6 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“I love that every person, including myself, can walk off this field knowing they left everything on it,” said Merriman, who threw for more than 2,200 yards this season despite the glaring lack of a consistent rushing attack.
“People may not have seen it from the outside, because the wins may not have come with it, but this whole program is turning around. It’s going to be a wonderful thing in a couple of years.”
Thompson Valley (5-5, 3-4 Northern League) wasted no time reasserting its control after Niwot tied the game. Francisco Marquez broke loose for a 43-yard touchdown run before the Eagles’ Mads Nielsen booted a 35-yard field goal. Merriman found Noterman for a 72-yard touchdown pass to keep the Cougars within striking distance, but touchdown runs by Ryan Pinn and Marquez iced the win for Thompson Valley.
“Offensively, we (ran) 42 plays, and you can’t win a game with only 42 plays on offense,” Brewer said. “We have to do a better job of playing the run better on defense so we can get the ball back to the offense.”
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THOMPSON VALLEY 38, NIWOT 20
At Thompson Valley H.S.
Niwot (2-8, 2-5) 3 3 8 6 — 20
Thompson Valley (5-5, 3-4) 0 14 7 17 — 38
Niwot — Brian Toles 25 field goal.
Thompson Valley — Ryan Pinn 5 run (Mads Nielsen kick)
Niwot — Toles 29 field goal.
Thompson Valley — Pinn 4 run (Nielsen kick).
Niwot — Jake Sarosi 13 pass from Nate Merriman (Cahill Kelleghan pass from Bryan Meek).
Thompson Valley — Francisco Marquez 43 run (Nielsen kick).
Thompson Valley — Nielsen 35 field goal.
Niwot — Elijah Noterman 72 pass from Merriman (kick blocked).
Thompson Valley — Pinn 24 run (Nielsen kick).
Thompson Valley — Marquez 15 run (Nielsen kick).
First downs 12 14
Rushes-yards 22-65 44-249
Passing yards 281 180
Comp-Att-Int 17-26-0 13-17-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-1
Penalties-Yards 3-36 9-84
RUSHING — Niwot: Michael Philips 3-41, Jake Thramann 9-30, Nate Merriman 7-(-2), Bryan Meek 3-(-4); Thompson Valley: Francisco Marquez 20-118, Ryan Pinn 14-100, Spencer Shook 4-23, Blake Firchau 4-10, Jake Martinson 1-2, Bret Ryan 1-(-4).
PASSING (comp-att-int-yards) — Niwot: Meriman 17-26-0 281; Thompson Valley: Shook 13-17-0 180.
RECEIVING — Niwot: Elijah Noterman 5-121, Meek 3-33, Jake Sarosi 2-25, Cahill Kelleghan 2-20, Josh Heape 1-34, Forrest Lee 3-26, Lorne Jenkins 1-23. Thompson Valley: Drew Meintzer 5-99, Faithin Williams 1-22, Pinn 1-27, Darryn Highland 3-25, Garrett Smith 1-5, Marquez 2-2.