Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
LONGMONT — What a difference a good defense makes.
Longmont has boasted a strong offense behind senior quarterback Keegan Patterson all season long. In fact, it’s been pretty prolific. The Trojan defense, however, has gone through some growing pains. On Friday night at Everly-Montgomery Field, the defense’s growth spurt came to an end when the Trojans put the beatdown on visiting Greeley Central with a 51-14 final.
“We’re tackling better and we’re just kind of starting to figure things out, so that’s a great thing,” head coach Doug Johnson said. “In gap integrity, we just weren’t very good about taking our gap or getting washed up the field or going into the wrong gap. We just had a lot of problems.”
Leading into Friday night’s matchup, the Trojan offense had put up 203 points and 28 touchdowns. Their record, however, sat at just 3-3. Defense had been the flashpoint of two of those losses.
“We feel like we’ve got a lot of really good athletes on our offense,” Patterson said. “Our offensive line has just been doing a fantastic job with all their blocking schemes. We understand they’re a little undersized, but they’re just incredible up front for us. They give us time for our athletes to work for us down the field and our athletes just make plays. Our defense followed it up tonight with a bunch of stops so it’s a pretty good combination for winning when you can do that.”
Greeley Central couldn’t get a first down until the 2 minute, 30-second mark of the first quarter and was only allowed to score a single touchdown in the first half thanks to a defensive breakdown from Longmont — its only one of the night.
“It’s definitely over the top by the young bucks coming in and playing and substituting all the older guys out,” senior middle linebacker Kale Derksen explained of the defense’s turnaround from week one.
Prior to that, the Trojans had built up a 30-point lead — one that they only complemented by responding to the Wildcats’ score with another one of their own. They entered the midway point with a 37-6 advantage, thanks in large part to another banner night from Patterson.
Once again, Patterson served as the offense’s shining beacon as he passed and pitched for 291 yards. His primary targets, senior running back Justice Lillie and senior wide receiver Caleb Johnson, collected 200 and 120 all-purpose yards, respectively. Lillie’s statistics included a monster 66-yard punt return in the first half.
Patterson eclipsed the 2,000-yard passing mark against the Wildcats as he threw five touchdown passes and ran in two others on his own. He now owns 2,134 passing yards through six games. Lillie and Johnson caught two of those TD passes each as senior cornerback Jack Moll added one more.
Now that Longmont has three straight wins under its belt, it will have to be even sharper on both sides of the ball. There will be no room for error when the Trojans travel to defending state champion and current Class 4A No. 6 Loveland next Saturday.
“We feel like we’ve been moving in the right direction these last three weeks,” Patterson said. “We had the tough one (50-6 loss in week four) at Erie where we had quite a few players get quarantined and I think that kind of woke us up a little bit. I’m hoping it’ll wind up being a blessing in disguise in a sense of waking us up to make a run. We believe that we have the pieces to make a run for a state championship and that’s the ultimate goal.”