DOVE CREEK It was an ending that needed one final word for the Dove Creek Bulldogs. Stunning, thrilling, miraculous, historic but ultimately, the word turned out to be disappointing.
Close, but this wasnt hand grenades. This was football and when the explosive 8-man duel was done, the Norwood Mavericks claimed the Western League title with a rather amazing 47-42 victory over the Bulldogs.
Besides five turnovers, the Bulldogs were tormented by seven failed 2-point conversions in the game.
This game was a bizarre horror show for the Bulldogs at the beginning. Two plays and a lost fumble. Norwood then scored on the fourth play of the game. Two 3-and-outs by the Bulldogs and another fumble, and things were uglier than a tornado attacking a trailer park.
Norwood (6-1, 4-0), which is ranked fifth in the state, scored three TDs on its first 10 offensive plays. After adding the fourth score, Dove Creek (5-2, 3-1) was buried in a crater-sized 26-0 hole at the end of the first quarter.
We had a hard time adjusting to their speed, first-year head coach Shane Baughman said. When you spot them 26 points, its tough to come back, but I really liked the resiliency the kids showed.
The blue and white clad Mavericks were putting a black-and-blue beating on the Bulldogs early, but the Bulldogs (No 8 Denver Post; No. 9 Coloradopreps.com) had plenty of fight in the tank. Dove Creek responded with grit and determination for the rest of the game. The gritty Bulldogs even had three possessions late in the fourth that gave them chances to take the lead.
But thats why the word disappointing hung in the brisk Dove Creek air like a fog when the final pass for the Bulldogs was intercepted.
Everybody really stepped up after that first quarter, but that team is way too good to get that far behind, senior quarterback Dalton Randolph said. But Im really proud of the way everybody played and we should keep our heads up.
When it came to touchdowns, the two teams both found the end zone seven times. But the Mavericks put up an extra five points with successful conversions and PATs.
If we would have just made our conversions, Randolph said. That was the game right there.
Trailing 47-36 in the fourth, Randolph busted loose on a 30-yard gain for the Bulldogs. He then cracked the end zone from four yards out to cut the lead to 47-42 with 9:42 remaining.
On the final three Bulldog possessions, the Mavericks defense halted any hopes of a miracle comeback with three sacks, a recovered fumble and the final play interception.
Randolph finished with 262 yards passing and four TDs, and added another 123 yards rushing and two TDs on the ground.
As far as football feasts are concerned, the first half was a quarter pounder.
After Norwood pounded Dove Creek in the first frame, the Bulldogs responded with an 18-0 pounding in the second quarter to make the score at halftime 26-18.
Dove Creek used all three phases of the game to get back in it. The offense started clicking, a big interception and return set up one TD, and a long kickoff return for another score on special teams kept the Bulldogs close.
Following that disastrous first quarter, the Bulldogs finally got a big play when Randolph broke free for a 59-yard run. On the next play, the signal caller drilled Jordan Ernst with a 20-yard TD strike.
Then the Bulldogs drove 80 yards, capping the drive with a 19-yard TD screen pass from Randolph to Nick Jones. The shifty receiver broke a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and scampered in to make the score 26-12.
Throughout the game, Norwood quarterback Morgan Rummel showed why hes one of he best in states 8-man ranks. But late in the second, he made one of his only miscues.
Dove Creeks Tyler Ebberts, who had a pick-6 last week, slashed in front of a Norwood receiver, snaring Rummels pass and it was a foot race to the goal line. After 54 yards, Ebberts was shoved out of bounds at the one, but Randolph scored on the next play.
Rummel electrified the crowd with his speed and elusiveness in the third, scoring on runs of 79 and 60.
After Rummels score to make the game 33-18, Chance Randolph, Daltons younger brother, grabbed the ensuing kickoff, busted out of the pack and blazed down the sideline for an 85-yard TD return.
Rummel again tap danced through the Bulldog defense on the next series. Busting into the secondary, dodging and hopping over defenders, the lanky quarterback weaved, darted and scampered to paydirt.
Dalton Randolph responded again zipping a 34-yard scoring strike to Ebberts.
At 40-30, Norwood used a fake punt to set up its final TD.
Then Dove Creek used a fake punt of its own to keep a drive alive. Then, under heavy pressure, Randolph sucked the pass rush toward him and dumped a screen pass to Cole Baughman. Now it was his turn to weave, dodge, dart and side-step defenders, as he skittered into the end zone from 35 yards out to cut the lead to 47-36 at the end of three.
A loss to Norwood is nothing new to the Dove Creek seniors, who found a small sliver of solace in the gallant effort. But the final score was just another disappointing defeat at the hands of their league rivals.
Its by far the most physical game Ive played, Dalton Randolph said. He also said that hes never beaten Norwood in high school or middle school. Hes hoping for one more shot in his career.
Hopefully, well see them in the playoffs, Id like to play them again, he said.
Dove Creek will open the 8-man playoffs at home Saturday against Sanford (5-3) in the cross-divisional game with a 1 p.m. kickoff.