A determined and often punishing running game, aggressive but disciplined defensive schemes, and the ability to hammer out wins in close games are all part of the Platte Canyon High School football tradition.
Each of those program traits that have historically made the Huskies perennial playoff contenders were clearly on display Saturday at when they garnered a hard-fought 16-12 victory at home over the Jefferson Saints.
The Class 1-A Foothills League contest featured the pass-happy Saints against the run-happy Huskies, and at times, both offenses enjoyed periods of success. But in the end, it was a pair of second half interceptions and, of all things, a touchdown pass by the Huskies that decided the outcome in their favor.
The Huskies moved to 2-4 overall, and 2-0 in conference play, while the Saints dropped to 3-3, 1-1 with the loss.
Both teams reached the end zone in the first quarter, but found touchdowns harder to come by as the game progressed.
The Huskies drew first blood when they capped an eight-play drive with a nifty pass from Allen Hardey to Brandon Patterson on fourth and goal from the Saints 12-yard line. Patterson snuck out of the backfield and took off straight down a seam in the Jefferson defense. Just as his lead foot hit the goal line, Hardey’s pass hit him between the numbers for Platte Canyon’s first passing touchdown of the season.
“Right when I looked back for the ball, it was there,” Patterson said. “It might have been a little bit to my back shoulder side, but it was basically on the money.”
The Huskies’ ensuing two-point conversion failed.
The Saints responded quickly as their passing game began to gain traction. Quarterback Devon Kemp hit three consecutive passes of 19, 15 and five yards. The third completion to teammate Elijah Pachecco-Martinez was good for a touchdown with 34 seconds remaining in the quarter. The two-point conversion failed.
The only second quarter score came from the Saints, who put together an impressive, 14-play drive that ended when Kemp bolted into the end zone from one yard out with just under six minutes remaining in the first half. Again, Jefferson’s two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
Each team had a pair of offensive possessions before halftime, but neither could generate a scoring opportunity.
Both defenses prevailed throughout the third quarter. In fact, the only score of the third quarter came when Platte Canyon’s Mike Dean slammed a scrambling Kemp down in his own end zone for a safety with less than a minute remaining.
The Huskies entered the fourth quarter trailing, 12-8.
On their next possession, still riding a wave of momentum from the safety by Dean, the Huskies began a 10-play scoring drive that began on their own 47 yard line. The drive featured six carries by Patterson, who unofficially totaled 130 yards on 17 carries.
Patterson has rushed for more than 500 yards this season despite missing one game due to injury. Patterson also had runs of 30 and 60 yards in the first half.
Fittingly, the winning drive was completed on a two-yard plunge into the end zone by Patterson with 6:47 left in the game. Patterson also ran in the two-point attempt for a 16-12 Huskies lead.
Despite a determined effort by the Saints, the Huskies’ defense would not bend in the final period. Linebacker Johnathan Hannigan picked off a Kemp pass in the fourth quarter, as did teammate Lucas Murphy.
“I’m really proud of the heart and character the kids showed late in the game today,” said Huskies Head Coach Lance Gunkel. “We switched to man-to-man coverage in the second half, which is the first time we have really done that this season. But the kids held up great and it worked out even better than I thought it might. I’m just really pleased with the overall effort of the team. It was a nice win.”