Bulldogs fall just short at top-ranked Mountain View

By David Peck
The Lovell Bulldogs engaged in a shootout with the Mountain View Buffaloes Friday in Mountain View and unfortunately couldn’t quite keep up with the high-scoring Buffs, falling 36-28.

Lovell coach Nicc Crosby knew top-ranked Mountain View would present a supreme challenge since they are strong across the board.

“They’re absolutely great at all three phases of the game,” Crosby said. “They have a lot of weapons on offense, they’re very solid defensively and their special teams are spectacular. They returned it to, like, our 30-yard line on one kickoff to start the second half. Our defense holds them to a three and out, and they kick a 50-yard field goal.

“They’re definitely a team that, if you’re going to beat them, you’re going to have to outplay them. They’re not going to beat themselves. You’re going to have to play well in all three phases of the game, as well.”

While praising Mountain View, Crosby also said the Bulldogs need to improve aspects of their game to compete with a top tier opponent like the Buffalos.

“In general, we’ve got to do a better job of wrapping up and tackling,” he said. “There were many times we had runs bottled up and we’re going in looking to make a hit instead of looking to wrap up, rally to the ball and bring the runner down.

“I think our offensive and defensive game plans were on point. The kids were in the right positions to make plays, but primarily on defense we’ve got to make those plays. Mountain View made more big plays than we did. …I hope  there were some good lessons learned, and hopefully we’ll have another opportunity to play those guys.”

Game action

The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and showed a new wildcat formation on offense where running back Jared Mangus takes a direct snap from center in a shotgun formation. The drive stalled when a snap sailed past Mangus for an 18-yard loss, but the new formation worked well, Crosby said.

“It was pretty effective,” he said. “We put the plays in this week, and it turned out pretty well.”

Mountain View returned a Lovell punt 41 yards to the Lovell 29, but on the second play of Mountain View’s series, Mangus picked off quarterback Justus Platts and returned the interception down the sideline 78 yards to the Mountain View 19.

Lovell couldn’t move initially, but on fourth and nine at the 18 quarterback Davin Crosby found receiver Owen Walker slicing across the middle, and the sophomore took the ball into the end zone for six points. On the PAT, the referees initially called the kick good, then changed their minds, leaving Lovell up 6-0. It was one of several instances where referees changed calls retroactively. 

The Lovell defense again stopped Mountain View on the next series, forcing a punt, but after moving the ball into Buffalo territory, the Lovell drive stalled, the Bulldogs giving up the ball on downs at the Mountain View 36.

Mountain View drove 64 yards to score, aided by a pair of facemask penalties, with Platts taking the ball in from five yards out.  The home team led 7-6 early in the second quarter.

Lovell got the short passing game going on the ensuing series as Crosby found Adnan Khan for 10 yards, Walker for six, Khan for six, Mangus for eight and Braxton Felkins for 21 to the Mountain View 10. Khan scored on a counter, the PAT failed, and Lovell led 12-7 with 1:32 left in the first half.

Mountain View came right back to score before halftime, moving 63 yards in six plays, the key play being a 45-yard connection between Platts and Carson Eardley to the Lovell 10. Platts went in nearly untouched from there, and Mountain View led 13-12 at halftime.

Second half

As coach Crosby mentioned, Mountain View returned the second half kickoff to the Lovell 35, and though the Lovell defense held, Mountain View booted a 50-yard field goal to lead 16-12.

Lovell drove to the Mountain View 19 but failed to convert on fourth and one. Mountain View then drove 81 yards to score with Jayce Schultz reaching pay dirt from three yards out. Mountain View led 23-12 late in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs drove 80 yards to score as Crosby threw a 76-yard pass to Matthew Newman, who made an acrobatic catch and raced to the Mountain View four. Khan took it in from there, then caught the two-point conversion from Crosby. Lovell was back in it trailing 23-20.

Lovell forced a punt and drove to the Mountain View 34 early in the fourth quarter when Crosby was hit from behind on a rollout to the right and fumbled. The Buffaloes drove 60 yards to score as Eardley leaped over a defender en route to the end zone from 19 yards out. The PAT failed, but Mountain View led 29-20.

A holding penalty cost the Bulldogs on the ensuing series, and following a punt, Mountain View drove 64 yards to score, with Platts bursting free for 52 yards to set up the touchdown. Mountain View led 36-20.

The never-say-die Bulldogs fired right back, driving 53 yards in four plays and a penalty. Crosby hit Khan for 15 yards and Walker for 23 yards and a touchdown. Crosby’s two-point conversion run brought Lovell within striking distance trailing 36-28 with 3:06 left.

Mountain View recovered an on-side kick and gained one first down before punting to the Lovell 2. Lovell had 98 yards to go and 32 seconds to work with. Crosby hit Walker twice for 17 and 14 yards, and a pass interference call gained 15 yards more to the 48 with two seconds left. Crosby’s deep hail Mary fell incomplete, and Mountain View came away with the 36-28 win.

“I’m happy with how we fought back,” Crosby said. “We were down 16 points and ended up having a chance to throw a hail Mary pass (to win). We didn’t give up. I was very pleased with that, and I thought we executed pretty well offensively.”

Crosby completed 15 of 30 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Walker caught six passes for 98 yards, Newman four for 112 yards and Khan four for 34 yards. Crosby also rushed for 55 yards on 13 carries, Mangus 31 yards on 13 carries and Khan 23 yards and two touchdowns on four carries.

Platts passed for 130 yards and rushed for 123 yards. Schultz rushed for 91 yards. Eardley rushed for 72 yards and caught two passes for 98 yards.

Felkins led Lovell with 15 defensive points, and Mangus had 10 points.

Back home

The Bulldogs will host Kemmerer Friday for the second to last game of the regular season. The Rangers are 1-5 on the season, 0-4 in the 2A West. Their lone “W” was a 25-7 win over Glenrock to open the season. Last week the Rangers fell to Pinedale 36-6. Kemmerer has scored only 27 points in six games.

“Coming out of this (Mountain View) game, we know we need to be more disciplined defensively, wrapping up and tackling,” Crosby said. “Offensively, we need to make sure we’re able to convert in short-yardage situations and keep the chains moving.

“We have found some new sets we like and have been effective. We want to put pressure on other teams defensively, and we’ll definitely look to clean up things on special teams.”

Kickoff Friday is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Robertson Stadium.