Tigers give Mustangs scare but fold in second half
Hayden — All year long, the highly touted West Grand Mustangs have steamrolled through every opponent and had not trailed in eight games.
On Friday night, against a pesky Hayden football team, the Mustangs found themselves trailing the Tigers 7-6 at halftime.
“I guess it was good,” West Grand coach Chris Brown said of the halftime score. “We found out what we were made of.”
The Mustangs came out in the second half and scored 41 points to win the game 47-13.
“They weren’t ready to lose yet,” Brown said. “They wanted to end the season undefeated.”
The game between the league-champion Mustangs and the second-place Tigers was a tune-up for both teams as they head into the playoffs next weekend.
Hayden will host Dolores County. West Grand will host Lyons.
“We wanted to come out and do some positive things to build on for next week,” Hayden coach Kevin Kleckler said. “Hopefully, we can work out the mistakes we made tonight this week in practice.”
After taking a 7-6 lead into the locker room, the Tigers self-destructed in the second half. The Tigers turned the ball over seven times in the final 24 minutes of play.
“The penalties and the turnovers killed us,” Kleckler said. “We didn’t give up. The kids played hard all night.”
The Mustangs got on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter. The Mustangs scored on their third possession of the game. In the first quarter, the Mustangs drove deep into Tiger territory only to turn the ball over on downs.
“We made some mistakes in the first two drives,” Brown said. “You have to give Hayden credit. They played well.”
The Mustangs were in danger of turning the ball over on downs a third time, but senior quarterback Tom Leitner scored on an option play from 36 yards out.
The Mustangs missed the extra point and led 6-0.
Hayden took the lead right before the second period came to an end. The Tigers put their best drive of the night together. The Tigers went 65 yards in 10 plays. The drive was capped off on a third-down play from the 3-yard line.
Senior quarterback Kevin Miller completed his only pass of the game to senior Danny Hayden. Miller threw a strike to Hayden, who was open in the middle of the end zone.
“The first half we played awesome,” Kleckler said.
The Tigers got the ball first in the third quarter, but momentum quickly changed. Miller fumbled on the Tigers’ first snap of the third quarter when the Mustangs’ James Holmes sacked him.
Four plays later, the Mustangs scored their second touchdown of the night when senior running back Jay Yust ran 18 yards up the middle of the Tigers defense for the score.
After trading possessions, the Tigers looked like they had made a play to get back into the game. Junior Alan Stark recovered a Mustang fumble at the 36-yard line. The Tigers scored on the next play when Miller kept the ball on the option, but the play was called back because of a holding penalty.
Despite the penalty, the Tigers drove to the 20-yard line and were looking to tie the score. However, Miller and running back Jacques Denker had trouble with a handoff. Holmes scooped up the fumble and the senior ran 80 yards for a touchdown.
“That play changed the momentum of the game,” Kleckler said.
On the Tigers’ next possession, the Mustangs’ Tyler Terryberry intercepted Miller. The sophomore free safety would intercept two more passes.
The Mustangs scored four plays later when Leitner threw a 15-yard touchdown pass.
The Tigers seemed to get back into the ballgame on the kickoff. Miller returned the kickoff 83 yards to pull the Tigers within 27-13. On the runback, Miller was spectacular as he broke numerous tackles.
Hayden’s comeback was short lived when the Mustangs recovered an on-side kick. Using the powerful running of Yust, the Mustangs scored on a 12-play drive that covered 45 yards.
Leitner scored on a run from seven yards out to make the score 34-13. In the fourth quarter, Riley Whiteman replaced Miller at quarterback. Whiteman threw three interceptions. Two of the interceptions led to touchdowns.
Despite the convincing win, Brown was impressed with Hayden’s play.
“If Hayden duplicates their effort tonight, they have a good shot next week,” Brown said. “They had us down.”
The Tigers finish the season at 4-5 and 3-3 in league play. Up next is 7-1 Dolores County, who is ranked in the top 10 in the state. The game is set for 1 p.m. Saturday in Hayden.
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