‘We can hold our heads up’

‘We can hold our heads up’

Pirates drop playoff game to host Prairie, 40-8

A superb season came to a disappointing end for the Cotopaxi High School football team on Saturday afternoon in a 40-8 loss to host Prairie in the first round of the Class 6-man state playoffs.

The Pirates, 6-4 and champions of the A 6 South West League, couldn’t keep pace with the 8-2 Mustangs, who broke open a tight game midway through the third quarter.

Prairie hosted Cotopaxi a week before the playoff game, winning 20-12 in a game dominated by the Pirates.

“They are really deep,” Cotopaxi coach Jeremy Cole said. “That’s a good football team, and when you get beat by a good football team it doesn’t make the loss hurt any less but we can hold our heads up because we played well and fought hard. I’m proud of the boys.”

The Mustangs, from New Raymer (a four-plus hour drive from Cotopaxi), finished second in the A 6 North League. They have 23 players on their roster while Cotopaxi features 14. Most of the Pirate starters played both offense and defense, while the Mustangs used a more liberal substitution package.

“I don’t think the [back-to-back] trips had any effect on us,” Cole said. “We were super-excited about playing them. It’s mainly about having to go both ways the whole time. We got a little bit tired and the other team was able to sub a bit here and there, and it makes a difference.

“They won the game and we sure don’t take anything away from what they did. Prairie has a great coach and a group of kids.”

The Pirates started off well, taking the opening kickoff on a nine-play, 60-yard drive that culminated in a 15-yard scoring strike from freshman quarterback Ty Coleman to junior Collin Whipple, who lowered his shoulder against two defenders to get into the endzone. A successful conversion kick by senior Frank Ogden made it 8-0 with 5:21 left in the first quarter.

On that opening drive, Coleman extended the Pirates’ drive by hitting Ogden on two crossing routes of 15 and 22 yards, which gave the team first downs.

The Mustangs, like they did a week before, responded immediately as they connected on a 53-yard touchdown pass. The Pirates still led 8-6 after a missed kick by Prairie.

Prairie went ahead 12-8 early in the second quarter. Minutes later, Cotopaxi forced a fumble that was recovered by senior Tyler Sawyer near midfield. A 14-yard completion to Ogden and a 7-yard run by Sawyer moved the ball to the Mustangs’ 24. An incomplete pass, a sack and then an interception thwarted that scoring chance.

One of the biggest plays in the game occurred on the Mustangs’ next drive, when on third down-and-15 yards, the Pirates were called for pass interference on a play in which two Pirates and two Mustangs bumped into each other while the high pass fell to the ground. That penalty gave Prairie a first down at midfield. They took the ball in from there, scoring on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds to go in the quarter.

In the second half, Cotopaxi’s offense struggled to get first downs while the Pirates defense wore down. Prairie put the game away midway through the third quarter on a short scoring run to make it 27-8.

“We were right in the game,” Cole said. “Even at 20-8, that’s an easy comeback. The kids played well. We just couldn’t get quite a few of those little things accomplished that we needed to do to win the game.”

The game was the last one for four Pirate seniors: Liam True, Zackary Van Esselstine, Sawyer and Ogden.

“That’s the worst part, the last game of the year,” Cole said. “You have those relationships with those kids and you know that it’s the last time they’ll play football. It’s a tough day.”

All of the Pirates’ losses this season came to teams which are still playing in the playoffs: Prairie, Kim/Branson and North Park. All three recorded first-round playoff victories.

Prairie will take on league foe Fleming next weekend in the quarterfinals. Fleming beat Prairie 60-20 during the regular season.

Prairie 40, Cotopaxi 8

First quarter
Cotopaxi – Collin Whipple 15 pass from Ty Coleman. Frank Ogden kick. 8-0. (5:21)
Prairie – Wyatt Ruppel 53 pass from Mitch Dollerschell. Kick blocked. 8-6. (4:36)
Second quarter
Prairie – Maverik Mertens 7 run. Kick failed. 12-8. (8:57)
Prairie – Garrett Lindell 13 pass from Dollerschell. Kick good. 20-8. (:31)
Third quarter
Prairie – Levi Troudt 1 run. Xander Speicher pass from Dollerschell. 27-8. (5:12)
Prairie – Carson Holzworth 3 run. Conversion pass. 34-8. (:25)
Fourth quarter
Prairie – Holzworth 1 run. Conversion pass. 40-8. (1:39)