Despite a herculean effort on the part of senior running back Brandon Patterson, the Platte Canyon High School Huskies fell 21-8 Friday in their home opener against the Buena Vista Demons.
Patterson, operating out of the split wing offense, ran over and around Demons defenders to the tune of 8.2 yards per carry with 196 yards rushing on 24 carries. Patterson scored the Huskies’ only touchdown on a 62-yard romp and then ran in the ensuing 2-point conversion.
Patterson’s long run and 2-point conversion, however, came late in the fourth quarter and were not nearly enough to overcome Buena Vista’s big-play offense that had already posted a comfortable 21-0 advantage.
While the Huskies might well have boasted the top performer for either team in Patterson, the Demons sported a quick-strike offense featuring quarterback Kik Molitor and wide receiver Luke Yates that proved to be the difference in the game.
Molitor and Yates, both seniors, connected for touchdown completions of 34 and 40 yards, respectively, one coming in the first quarter and another in the fourth.
The Huskies offense, meanwhile, had difficulty hanging on to a wet football, and sputtered at times in crucial situations. Despite grinding out an unofficial total of 16 first downs, a number of miscues at inopportune times proved too much to overcome.
The Huskies, for example, mounted a methodical 20-play drive with a punishing running attack that consumed much of the third and fourth quarters. But the drive came to an abrupt and deflating end on a fumble at the Demon’s 10-yard line. Only two Platte Canyon fumbles were recovered by Buena Vista, but the Huskies unofficially put the slippery pigskin on the ground six times in the contest.
The start of the game was delayed 45 minutes due to lightning, and the field had been pelted by rain and hail for almost an hour before the teams hit the field. A steady rain also persisted through much of the first half.
First-year Huskies head coach Lance Gunkel had to have been somewhat encouraged, however, by his team’s ground game that accounted for 261 yards and averaged 5.9 yards per rushing play. More specifically, he had to be pleased by the performance of Patterson, who also doubled at linebacker throughout the contest for the Huskies.
“Brandon played well, but we expect a lot out of him and will continue to expect a lot out of him throughout the season,” Gunkel said.
Patterson did the vast majority of his running between the tackles in tight spaces. Much of his production came on carries after defenders made initial contact, prompting Patterson to drag Demons with him as he trudged forward for extra yardage.
On the 62-yard touchdown with just seconds left in the game, Patterson sniffed out a seam in the middle of the Buena Vista defense and rumbled untouched for the score. On that play, and for much of the game, the Huskies’ interior offensive line did an exceptional job of establishing and maintaining contact with defenders long enough to provide running space for Platte Canyon ball carriers.
“Brandon did a nice job of seeing the block, planting his foot and hitting the hole on that play,” Gunkel said of the touchdown.
Defensively, the Huskies were stingy as a rule but had difficulty handling the speed and athleticism of the Demon’s 6-3 senior receiver, Yates. Yates outran Platte Canyon defenders on the 34-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, and simply out-jumped defenders at the goal line on the 40-yard bomb in the final period.
Standouts for the Huskies included sophomore quarterback and defensive safety, Allen Hardey, senior receiver and defensive safety, Hunter Hewitt, sophomore offensive and defensive lineman, Ben Hatz, and junior linebacker Eli Giles. Evan Gafner, a sophomore, also made tackles from sideline to sideline for the Huskies and picked off a Buena Vista pass in the third quarter.
With the exception of several big plays through the air, the Huskies were predominantly solid against a formidable Buena Vista ground attack.
Hardey made a number of touchdown-saving tackles when left as the last line of defense in open field against shifty Buena Vista backs and receivers. By his own standards, though, the first-time quarterback was not pleased with his performance on the offensive side of the ball.
“I personally have to do a better job of protecting the football,” Hardey said. “A wet ball is no excuse.”
Despite the loss, Gunkel was complimentary of his team’s effort and their willingness to fight to the final gun even when the final outcome was apparent in the game’s later stages.
“Hey, the kids competed well and there was absolutely no quit in them,” Gunkel said of his team. “I was proud of their effort, and as a coach, that is all you can ask for.”
With regards to weather and fumbles, the coach concurred with his sophomore quarterback.
“What we do have to do is hold on to the football,” Gunkel said. “The weather is no excuse.”
Gunkel and his team, which travels to face Wiggins High School this Friday at 1 p.m., will undoubtedly be more than a match for many Class 1A opponents as the season progresses. In part because of its traditionally tough defensive play and its unconventional wing offense, Platte Canyon opponents always feel fortunate to slip out of Bailey with a victory.
“This is always a tough place to play, and that wing offense requires your defense to stay so disciplined,” said Buena Vista head coach Matt Flavin. “It would have been nice if we would have committed a few less penalties, but we have a lot of new faces out there and I was pleased with our effort overall.”
This Friday, both the Huskies and the Wiggins Tigers will be seeking redemption from Week One setbacks, as the Tigers also fell at home in their season opener to Brush, 14-6.
The Huskies defeated Wiggins 12-0 last season, in Bailey.