DENVER - Beating Green Mountain and Montbello in succession was an important accomplishment as Standley Lake strives to return to football relevance …
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DENVER - Beating Green Mountain and Montbello in succession was an important accomplishment as Standley Lake strives to return to football relevance after two down years.
In fact, Gators coach Don Morse, whose team knocked off 10th-ranked Green Mountain the week before, called Saturday’s 4A Mountain League-opening, 34-7 victory over Montbello “a huge win.’’
Imagine how Morse would categorize a win over second-ranked Broomfield.
That’s the next challenge - and it’s a considerably bigger one than beating Green Mountain and Montbello - for Standley Lake. The Gators, who won just four games the previous two seasons after going 8-3 in 2009, improved to 5-1 overall, the lone loss to 5A Smoky Hill. They’ll have another monumental challenge against No. 4 Monarch in the regular-season finale.
“To me, that was the battle right now for third place,’’ Morse said of the Montbello win. “Montbello had lost to two pretty good teams. And they have a lot of explosive players and we were definitely worried about their big-play capability.’’
Indeed, the Warriors moved the ball in the first half with their no-huddle, spread offense. Montbello managed drives of 52 and 71 yards, the latter resulting in its lone touchdown with less than a minute left, cutting Standley Lake’s lead at the break to 17-7.
But Montbello self-destructed prior to that. A botched punt snap and ensuing blocked punt by Steve Emmen was recovered and returned 11 yards for the game’s first score by Anthony Moore. The first of Matt Fujinami’s two interceptions in the half set up a field goal. Connor Durant made it 17-0 with a 52-yard punt return after the Gators failed to convert a goal-to-goal but forced the punt from the 7-yard line. And the Warriors continually shot themselves in the foot with major penalties.
The Gators then took the second-half kickoff and drove 70 yards in just four plays - including a 45-yard run by Mario Spears -- for a commanding 24-7 lead, and their defense and running game dominated the rest of the game.
Durant added two second-half interceptions of Montbello quarterback Alpoirtier Thompson, the first one setting up Tanner Flack’s second field goal, a 35-yarder. Montbello ran just nine plays for 12 yards in the third quarter before the two fourth-quarter interceptions.
The Gators had scoring drives of 70 and 87 yards in the third quarter, each one capped by a short touchdown pass by sophomore quarterback Jacob Naranjo, who was 0-for-2 in the first half and finished 5-of-9 for 36 yards, three completions to Trey Jarvis, including the first TD. The second one went 4 yards to Fujinami, last year’s starting quarterback who is finding different ways to contribute in 2012.
“We changed because we felt it was best for the team,’’ said Fujinami, who serves as a receiver and safety. “I’m in my role to try and do my best for the team. Jacob’s a great quarterback. If he’s what’s best for the team, then I’m all for it.’’
Durant, a junior, notched both his first career interceptions and punt return for touchdown.
“It seemed like they passed a lot and our (defensive) line was making him roll out,’’ Durant said of his interceptions. “The punt return goes all to the team.’’
Standley Lake’s running game was potent as usual, churning out 340 yards, led by Spears’ season-high 116 yards (he had 48 total in the first four games). Jordan Downing added 67 yards, Patrick McKinney 63 and Trey Muller 52.
“For some reason, they came out in a different defense that kind of surprised us and actually helped us,’’ Morse said. “I don’t know if that’s because they were worried about us passing. It helped us to get some bubbles and get some good runs. And then when they did go to (the anticipated defense), our kids were able to keep their momentum going running the ball.’’
Now it’s up to the Gators to show they can do the same against one of the state’s best teams.
“They’re a good team and it’s going to be a tough game,’’ Fujinami said. “But if we play like I know we can, I think we have a chance.’’
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