Almost without exception, virtually every team, in every sport, at every level, has days when little or nothing seems to go its way. Unfortunately for the Platte Canyon High School Huskies, Saturday was one of those days, as they suffered a 40-8 loss on the road against the Wiggins Tigers.
When the Tigers (1-1) scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game, it proved to an ominous hint of things to come. Before the first half was in the books, the Huskies (0-2) were staring down the barrel of a 26-0 deficit.
A number of viable excuses were available to the Huskies for their overall performance. For starters, the offensive and defensive lines for Wiggins enjoyed a considerable size advantage that was immediately obvious to even the most casual observer. Temperatures were pushing 90 degrees on the state’s eastern plains, offering heat index readings seldom experienced in Park County.
Making matters worse, was the fact that the Wiggins offense was remarkably efficient and balanced. The Tigers rolled up 177 yards rushing, and 153 yards through the air. Wiggins averaged 14 yards per pass completion, and 9.8 yards per rushing attempt.
Finally, the Wiggins defense offered no reprieve either, as their sizable, aggressive front and linebacker core spent much of the day in the Huskies offensive backfield.
When asked about those factors, PCHS Head Coach Lance Gunkel preferred a more narrow, self-reflective and excuse-free perspective of the day’s events.
“We simply didn’t match the intensity of our opponent today,” Gunkel said. “I don’t think we were mentally prepared to meet the challenges Wiggins presented, and that is ultimately my fault. We will be hoping to change that with more intense practices next week.”
The Tigers’ freshman quarterback, Cole Kerr, was sensational. Kerr completed 11 of 14 passes for four touchdowns while also running for two touchdowns of three and 16 yards, respectively. Kerr rushed for 90 yards on 12 carries and single-handedly accounted for 244 yards of offense overall on the ground and through the air.
That offensive balance exhibited by the Tigers seemed to keep PCHS defenders uncharacteristically out of sorts from start to finish. The normally aggressive and disruptive PCHS defensive unit, due in large part to the Tigers’ ability to run or pass with equal effectiveness, simply never found its stride.
“We just seemed to be reacting and waiting for things to happen defensively, rather than being aggressive and making things happen the way we should,” Gunkel said.
Even though it was tough sledding for Huskies on both sides of the ball, PCHS did show signs of life thanks to several noteworthy individual performers.
Senior running back and linebacker Brandon Patterson posted the only points in the game against Buena Vista with a 62-yard run, and did the same against Wiggins with a 50-yard romp to pay dirt in the fourth quarter.
On both occasions, the ensuing two-point conversions were successfully run in by Patterson. Patterson also unofficially led the Huskies in tackles from his post at outside linebacker.
Sophomore quarterback and safety Allen Hardey also continues to show moxie defensively, making tackles all over the field as the last line of defense for the Huskies. On numerous occasions over the season’s first two weeks, Hardey has skillfully found his way to opposing runners and receivers in open field to make touchdown-saving plays.
Hardey, who was a three-sport letterman in football, basketball and baseball as a freshman, also demonstrates the type of leadership and poise required to play quarterback. Hardey looked much more polished under center in week two than in week one, and seemed comfortable running the offense and keeping unforced errors to a minimum against the Tigers.
“That’s to be expected,” Gunkel said of Hardey. “He got a lot of time at defensive back as a freshman, but playing quarterback is completely new to him.”
Evan Grafner, also a sophomore, has been a positive influence for the Huskies on both sides of the ball. Grafner has made a number of exceptional plays defensively over the first two weeks, and he also provided a picture-perfect blocking escort to hold off defenders on Patterson’s left side as he rumbled in from 50 yards against the Tigers with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Senior Johnathan Hannigan, who garnered an impressive sack on Kerr Saturday, has made good thus far on Gunkel’s preseason prediction that he would be a player to watch for the Huskies.
Huskies junior Darius Boyer and sophomore linebacker Elijah Giles also contributed to the defensive effort Saturday against the Tigers.
The Huskies immensely challenging non-conference schedule continues Saturday (Sept. 21) at 1 p.m. against the always-formidable Colorado Springs Christian Lions. The Lions are currently ranked 10th in the state among Class 1A teams.
In week one the Lions fell to the state’s third-ranked Class 1A team, Holyoke, 21-6. Last week, however, the Lions blasted perennial power Peyton, 32-14.
Further demonstrating the strength of the Huskies’ non-conference schedule is that they will travel to face Peyton Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. Peyton is currently ranked 12th in the state among Class 1A teams.
Interestingly, the Huskies’ week one opponent, Buena Vista, currently ranks 16th among Colorado’s Class 1A football programs.