BOULDER — In the end, like the lightning that surrounded Recht Field on Friday night, the Boulder football team’s effort proved to be just a threat.
Friday night’s 24-14 season-opening loss to Fossil Ridge did come with its moments, though, and there clearly were things to build on in a game which head coach Bob Simmons was forced to miss.
Junior TJ Jones racked up 119 yards on 18 carries, and the Panthers looked pretty crisp offensively for most of the night. But after taking a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter, Fossil Ridge posted 17 unanswered points behind a consistent running attack of its own.
SaberCats running back Andrew Sprayberry ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns, including a three-yard score on fourth-and-goal in the final stanza to give the visitors a solid victory.
Simmons was absent because of what Boulder athletic director Melissa Warfield would only describe as a “personal matter,” but with Bryant Shaw coaching in his stead, the Panthers competed throughout the night.
Mistakes haunted the Panthers just enough to take away some of their momentum . They had 15 penalties for 150 yards, among them several encroachment penalties and personal fouls.
“We’ve got to find ways to keep momentum when we have it, whether you’re on defense and not trying to have silly penalties or you’re on offense not putting the ball on the ground,” Shaw said after Boulder produced 268 yards of offense. “When you’re rolling, you can’t have those things happen.
“I think one thing we found out about them is they are not going to quit. That’s one of the things the coaches are trying to instill in them. I’m proud of how hard they played.”
But it was a second half rush attack from Fossil Ridge that really kept the Boulder defense on the field too much. Ninety-seven of Sprayberry’s yards came in the second half, and his game-turning touchdown late came after a 16-play drive that spanned much of the third stanza and 3 minutes of the fourth.
The SaberCats totaled 272 yards of offense.
Despite that, Boulder had a couple of chances to keep themselves right in the game. Backup kicker Ismael Bouchta missed a 41-yard field goal early in the third, a tough attempt into a light wind, and a fumble in the fourth quarter after a 20-yard pass play gave the ball away deep in Fossil Ridge territory.
The Panthers had one last drive in the fourth come to an end in FRHS territory.
“Everyone here wants to win, and we believe that we can win,” said senior Collin Heimbach, who had four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. “Penalties hurt us. I think there was one drive we had 35 yards in penalties, and that’s tough to work with. We have to clean things up.”
Boulder did jump out to a nice start. Jones, who averaged nearly six yards a carry as a sophomore, carried the ball all five plays of Boulder’s first drive, scampering for 55 yards and pounding forward for a 1-yard score to make it 7-0.
The teams traded barbs in the second frame, with Boulder taking another seven-point lead after Heimbach pulled down a 37-yard pass from Malcolm Patterson — a ball that was tipped at the end by defensive back Ethan Limon.
Fossil Ridge answered immediately with a 17-yard TD pass from Mitch Salmela to Cole Schilling, and the SaberCats took their first lead with a Evan Bergerson 47-yard field goal early in the third.
Patterson finished with 121 yards passing and another 23 on the ground.
“That 16-play drive, things were going right for them and they found a way to keep it,” Shaw said, adding the team knew in advance that Simmons was going to miss the game. “All it takes is one play to stop that, and we’ve got to find those big plays.”
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Fossil Ridge 24, Boulder 14
At Recht Field
Fossil Ridge 0 14 3 7 — 24
Boulder 7 7 0 0 — 14
Boulder — TJ Jones 1 run (Andrew Pettit kick).
Fossil Ridge — Andrew Sprayberry 7 run (Evan Bergerson kick).
Boulder — Malcolm Patterson 37 pass to Collin Heimbach (Pettit kick). Fossil Ridge — Mitch Salmela 17 pass to Cole Schilling (Bergerson kick).
Fossil Ridge — Bergerson 47 field goal.
Fossil Ridge — Sprayberry 3 run (Bergerson kick).
RUSHING — Fossil Ridge: Andrew Sprayberry 29-149, Zack Feuer 7-48, Mitch Salmela 2-(minus-3). Boulder: TJ Jones 18-119, Malcolm Patterson 11-23, Shane Relkin 1-5.
PASSING — Fossil Ridge: Salmela 7-14-0-78. Boulder: Patterson 8-17-0-121.
RECEIVING — Fossil Ridge: Cole Schilling 5-38, Quenneville 1-25, Ethan Limon 1-13, Feuer 1-1. Boulder: Collin Heimbach 4-72, Scott Slaugh 2-30, Relkin 2-19.