Big second half carries Cardinals
It was perhaps a foregone conclusion that Elizabeth would defeat Vista PEAK in last Friday’s football game at the Aurora Public Schools Stadium.
After all, this is the first year for Vista PEAK to field a varsity team and the Bison are short on numbers. Coach Pat Rock only has 21 players to suit up, none of which are seniors. Elizabeth, on the other hand, suits up 65 players. But for the first half of their Colorado 7 League game against visiting Elizabeth, the Bison presented the Cardinals with a challenge.
Despite the rain and cold, Elizabeth, which led 12-8 at the half, exploded for 30 third-quarter points and go on to take a 49-8 victory. With the victory, the Cardinals would improve to 3-3 on the season while Vista PEAK dropped to 1-5.
Elizabeth, coached by Chris Cline, led 12-8 at the end of the first quarter on a 13-yard run by Logan Weber with 8 minutes, 30 seconds left. The short three-play drive of 22 yards began after a fake punt by Vista PEAK didn’t produce the first down. The Cardinals scored their second touchdown of the quarter on a 7-yard run by Kevin Paredes with 41 seconds left in the quarter that capped an 80-yard 11-play effort.
Vista PEAK would score its only touchdown on the game on a 17-yard pass from quarterback Adam Puehler to D.J. Ortiz with 5:58 left in the first half.
“I think we played a bit poorly in the first half, but (Vista) was playing hard, too,” Cline said. “I was proud of the way the kids rebounded in the third quarter. They are youthful, but they played us hard. We were kind of off balance in the first half, but in that second half the kids played much sharper. We had some early missed opportunities in the first half, but we were able to rebound.”
And what a rebound it would become.
“We probably did overlook them a bit,” Paredes said. “But their quarterback just wouldn’t give up for them and he helped them stay right there in that first half. The third quarter we played so much sharper. Our key was to get focused and shore up our mistakes.
“We were able to do that in the third quarter and we were able to get going,” said Paredes, who would score his second touchdown on an 8-yard run with 9:10 left in the third quarter. “Yes, they are young, but they seem like a bunch of guys who can certainly come through for them.”
Elizabeth kicked off to Vista PEAK to open the second half, but the Bison couldn’t handle the ball and the muff was recovered by the Cardinals’ Spencer Fullbright at the Bison 18-yard line. It only took the Cardinals three plays to score with Chase Nicholas, who rushed for 76 yards, taking the ball over the goal line from 7-yards out with 10:57 left in the quarter. His point after run make it 20-8.
Elizabeth would score again with 9:28 on a safety as the Vista PEAK center snapped the ball over the punters head. Then again, with 9:10 left on Paredes second touchdown. At that point, the Cardinals led 29-8.
It was four-and-out for Vista PEAK on its next possession. But disaster struck as the ensuing punt was blocked by a host of Cardinals and recovered at the Bison 33-yard line.
Again, it would only take Elizabeth three plays to score. The first was an incomplete pass by quarterback Brody Oliver. That play was followed by a 9-yard run by Jordan Bucknam to the 24, who would next carry the ball the rest of the way for the touchdown.
Again, it would only take three plays for Elizabeth to score it’s final touchdown of the third quarter.
Vista PEAK had driven to the Elizabeth 33-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs and Nicholas took over again His first play was good for only three-yards, but his second went for 40-yards setting up his third run a the drive, a touchdown from 24-yards out. With that, the quarter came to a close with the Cardinals leading 42-8.
“That third quarter should have been our first quarter,” said Elizabeth lineman Brandon Strannigan. “We came out way to flat and I think we did overlook them in that half. But in the second, we finally got going and we were able to move the ball and take advantage of their mistakes. They played us tough in that first half, just a good bunch of guys to go up against.”
Weber would close out the scoring for Elizabeth in the fourth quarter with a 32-yard run with 10:40 left in the game. At that point, the clock would begin its continuous run.
Vista PEAK running back Kyree Herron and quarterback Adam Puehler knew from the beginning it could be a difficult night.
“There was just a mental letdown in the second half and it just seemed that one mistake led to another,” said Herron, who rushed for 75 yards on 13 carries. “We’ve had some good practice session and our team is starting to blend together. We just need to rev our game up and get to where we are up tempo all the time.”
Added Puehler, who completed 13-of-27 passes for a scant 65 yards, “It was mental, yes. We had a good push in the first half and that’s what we need to do, keep pushing. In the second half. We just didn’t seem to be ready to play. But they are a good team and they played hard against us.”
Indeed, it was a good as well as a disappointing night for Rock.
“We did play good in that first half, but in the second, one bad play seemed to lead to another,” Rock said. “This is a young team, but I don’t feel they are that young anymore. The kids are learning to play smart and hard and for that, we’re fortunate. We are gaining that needed experience and I’m very proud of these kids.”