Last May my family made the decision to integrate two boxer puppies into our home. There is much I could say about that decision, but little of that would have anything to do with the first-round 4A Northern playoff game that took place at Damonte Ranch on Friday night, so let me get to business.
We quickly learned that puppies love to play, and often that playing can be rough. As they have grown, the playful puppy interaction has, worn a scary mask. In the blink of an eye the two of them will go from playful wrestling to a tornado of teeth and claws. We have to reach into that vortex of teeth and claws to separate them which has given me insight to the phrase “dog fight”. It is no fun reaching into a “dog fight”, and it is not something I ever want to be a part of, but DRFP found themselves in one Friday night when they hosted the Huskies.
In September DRFP defeated the Huskies 35-14, this game had a different feel from the very beginning. The Huskies were better prepared on both sides of the ball. They quickly established their run game with Dru Worthen picking up chunks of yards and first downs. On the other side of the ball, Ashton Hayes was forced to navigate wave after wave of defenders while trying to find a seam. Damonte did score first, a 20-yard Ethan Kulpin touchdown pass. The Huskies got on the scoreboard after Taskar Eason intercepted a Kulpin pass and took it in for the touchdown. The Huskies then took the lead after a 29-yard touchdown pass, Kyle Fermoile to Carter Stokes, which gave the Huskies a 14-7 lead. Then Ty Polson reached into the tornado of claws and teeth and did something special.
The Mustangs had the ball on their side of the field, Kulpin dropped back, protected by his offensive line, and threw the ball deep down the center of the field. Ty Polson, recently returned from injury, leapt and stretched out, snaring the pass with his fingertips. As he hit the ground he put both hands under the ball, cradling it, and all the defender, who was a couple steps behind Polson, could do was watch the play unfold and shake his head. Kulpin would finish the drive off with a 3-yard touchdown run, and we had a 14-14 game.
Ashton Hayes may have faced wave after wave of defenders, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t picking up yards. No gain. Eight yards. Three yards. No gain. The Huskies made stopping Hayes their top priority but being the defense’s top priority did not stop Hayes from doing what Hayes does. With 39 seconds remaining in the half, Hayes scored from two yards out, giving the Mustangs a 21-14 lead.
At halftime the graduating seniors from the Damonte Ranch Marching Band were honored and then the two teams went back to action. In the third quarter Kulpin found Vargas with a long pass on the Huskies sideline, Vargas made another highlight reel catch before eluding the Huskies defenders as he sprinted into the endzone, 28-14. It could have been 35-14, but a long Hayes touchdown run was called back because of a holding call. On the next play Hayes, who refused to be denied, picked up another huge chunk of yards, but the drive stalled on the Huskies side of the field and after a missed field goal the Huskies took over.
As the clock wound down the Huskies went deep into the playbook and it payed off. With less than two minutes remaining, down by two touchdowns, the Huskies connected on a triple pass play from midfield. Damonte had defenders in position to make the play, however, the ball was tipped away from the intended wide receiver into the arms of one trailing the play who then sprinted into the endzone making the score 28-21 with a little more than a minute remaining.
The onside kick is a stern taskmaster. You can practice it a dozen times and feel that you are ready for any eventuality and then in live game action the ball will bounce differently than it has in practice, the sure handed member of your team will fail to secure the ball, and you find yourself in uncharted waters. The Huskies lined up and kicked the ball to their left, the right side of Damonte’s return team. Both sides had their “good hands team” players on the field. The ball sped past the first Damonte player, and we had a rugby style scrum for the ball. The officials peeled players off the pile, revealing Ethan Kulpin at the bottom, with the ball. After that the Mustangs were able to take a knee and watch the clock run out with the final score 28-21.
Next Up – another rematch, this time with the Reed Raiders. The Raiders hosted the Douglas Tigers, Friday night, winning by a score of 63-21. The Raiders quarterback is Jack Franz who threw for 1813 yards in the regular season and 20 touchdown passes. Their feature back is the talented Elijah Tau Tolliver. Tolliver rushed for 1312 yards in the regular season. The two teams met on September 27th, in Sparks, with Damonte earning the program’s first win on Reed’s home field, 19-6. In the September matchup, Ashton Hayes rushed for 241 yards and three touchdowns.