Football: Niwot victory a product of belief, hard work

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Niwot’s Liam Flanagan rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns in the Cougars win over Fort Lupton last Friday.

NIWOT — When current senior Jonathan Colon moved from Maryland to Niwot before his junior year, he was really looking forward to playing football.

A lot of what Colon saw upon arriving of the Niwot football program told him he’d come to the wrong place. The Cougars were coming off yet another bleak season, and a 2016 campaign marred by a physical assault scandal that removed their head coach midseason. The Cougars then went 0-10 that fall but that didn’t deter Colon and a number of other players from sticking with the program and doing whatever they could to turn things around.

On Friday of last week, the Cougars won 26-13 on the road at Fort Lupton. That victory snapped a 19-game losing streak that spanned nearly two years and weighed more and more heavily on the Cougars as it grew longer. Most importantly, that single victory validated the efforts of all those who stuck around long enough to see the streak end.

“It’s really been a turning point for us,” Colon said. “The last couple years, our numbers have died off because of how our team has done. Those that have stayed are the ones who truly believe that we can turn this thing around. We’ll just have to keep putting in the work and keep pushing forward to keep things going in the right direction.”

When the Cougars (1-2) found themselves ahead of Fort Lupton (0-2) by a score of 12-7 at halftime, it was the first time they had led in a game since 2016. Their last win prior to Friday’s was a 40-28 victory over Air Academy on Sept. 16, 2016.

Much of the Cougars’ success in last Friday’s Week 3 game can be attributed to a colossal effort from junior tailback Liam Flanagan. As the team’s fullback, Colon helped clear a path for Flanagan, who carried the ball 43 times for 154 yards and all three of the Cougars’ touchdowns behind four linemen that weren’t on the team last season.

After Fort Lupton scored first, the Cougars responded with a safety and a field goal in the first quarter. As the Cougars built on their lead into the second half, Flanagan said they allowed themselves to believe that their losing streak might end that night.

“It was probably after halftime when we were still winning in the third quarter that we really felt like we would win,” Flanagan said. “I just saw a team that wasn’t giving up like we usually do. I saw in all my teammates that they felt like we could do it. We didn’t let up and it turned out to be really big for us. It’s great to not have that streak on our backs and it gives us momentum going into the next game.”

Senior Cory Rathburn led the Cougars with five tackles in what was also head coach Jeremy Lanter’s first win as the Cougars’ head coach.

“The kids have worked very, very hard not just to change the culture around here but also the way we go about doing our work,” Lanter said. “We’ve been hearing for weeks now that what we’re doing just looks like better football. Our kids right now are walking into every game at least thinking that they’ll have an opportunity to win.”

The Cougars will host Littleton (0-2) this Friday for homecoming at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont. After a bye week in Week 5, they will travel to play Eagle Valley (1-1) before returning home to host Thompson Valley (0-2). Thompson Valley is currently in the midst of a 17-game losing streak.

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