By Oskar LaRue – Staff Writer
The Lyons Lions varsity football team began their season Saturday with a three-hour bus ride to Ellicott, a friendly little town east of Colorado Springs and home of the Thunderhawks. It ended with 13-12 victory for the Lions, making the journey well worth it for players and fans alike. What happened in between, though, was a hard fought game between two evenly matched and
well-coached teams, and that’s always a sure-fire formula for excitement.
Ellicott’s first score was set up by an electrifying run from their speedy running back Cesar Morales, who flew around the right end untouched for sixty or seventy yards on the first play from scrimmage. Untouched, that is, until out of the hot blue sky lightning struck, in the form of Trent Poulsen. Poulsen, who started the play on the opposite side of field from where the sweep went, somehow ran down the fleet-footed Morales, and dumped him out of bounds at the five-yard line. The ‘Hawks were unimpressed though, because they ran it in for a touchdown on the next play, and a 6-0 lead. The quick score was apparently a huge wake-up call for the Lions defense, because they smothered the extra-point attempt, and the score remained 6-0. (Before continuing, it is noteworthy to mention that when speaking of the Lions’ defense, it is the same as speaking of the Lions’ offense, because out of necessity, most of these guys never leave the field.)
The next set of downs had the Lions going three-and-out, but quarterback Logan Watson did connect on a nice long pass to Zach Christiansen, which was nullified by a holding penalty. After the punt, the Lions’ defense picked up where it left off. After nice tackles by Steven Schopen, Kanyon Raper, and John Hickman, the ‘Hawks had to punt, but their punter bobbled the punt and was swallowed up by a pride of lions on the ten-yard line. Three plays later Watson followed Hector Rodriguez and Zach Hoar over the left side for a five-yard score, and with Austin Meyers holding, Poulsen’s kick put the Lions ahead 7-6 near the end of the opening quarter.
Early in the next quarter the ‘Hawks gambled, and went for a fourth-and-short. And once again the defense held, forcing a turnover on downs. The Lions’ offense then drove down to the opponent’s twelve-yard line, with a key play being a fourth-and-one hard count by Watson, which drew the ‘Hawks off sides (nice call, coach). The Lions’ drive ended there, however, when they coughed up the ball in the backfield and Ellicott recovered. Once again the defense held fast. Tanner Torello made a beautiful interception of a deflected pass, but it was called back when Poulsen was flagged for an early hit on the receiver. It was close. Could have gone either way. No instant replay in high school.
Rodriguez got loose in the backfield on one play, and made everyone on the Ellicott side of the ball nervous. He has that effect on people, you know. Especially running backs. Myers broke up the third down play, and the ‘Hawks’ short punt put the Lions in great field position at the thirty-nine yardline with 3:53 left in the half. But it was three-and-out again for the guys, as the Ellicott defense was impressive on this set of downs. However their offense was shut down yet again by the Lions, and after Poulsen returned their punt thirty yards to midfield, there were fifty-seven seconds left in the half. On second down, Watson scampered around the right side for seventeen yards, and got banged up pretty good on the tackle. As a precaution, he sat out the second half. Bowe Herman took over the quarterbacking duties, and Torello took Herman’s spot at tight end. The half ended with the Lions up 7-6, as Coach Wilkes and his staff let the clock run out so they could figure out what to say to their guys who just lost their leader.
What Coach Wilkes said, as the team huddled under a makeshift canopy shielding them from the blistering sun, was that maybe this is not all that bad a thing, Logan getting banged up a little, because now we’re going find out early in the season who the guys are who will step up, who will do more than they’re used to doing. And step up, did they ever. Ellicott got nowhere near the end zone in the third quarter, and the defense even added a touchdown when “Big John” Hickman busted through the line, blocked a punt, and Danny Fager pounced on the pigskin in the end zone, putting the good guys (the Lyons Lions) up 13-6. The extra point sailed wide left.
In the fourth quarter, the ‘Hawks quarterback, JaVonte Stewart, tossed a short pass to Jacob Crist in the corner of the end zone. Crist, perhaps the tallest person in all of Ellicott, made a nice catch over the defensive back to bring the ‘Hawks to within a point of the Lions, 13-12. Now the hometown fans really started going nuts. Ellicott decided to go for a two-point conversion to take the lead. It looked good on paper, anyway. But, apparently, no one showed Lyons lineman Gasper Vasquez that paper, because Vasquez smothered the runner like he was lunch and probably saved the game for the Lions. Even though the Lions’ offense stalled, their defense never wavered, repeatedly shutting down the ‘Hawks running and passing game when it really mattered. It was a well-deserved win for the team.