Glenwood Springs’ defense is surely gassed after that one.
The Demons’ defense was on the field for nearly 18 minutes in the second half Friday night against the Harrison Panthers’ physical offense, but Glenwood’s fast, physical defense held strong throughout the grueling second half.
Unfortunately for Glenwood, the offense couldn’t quite put together that one drive the Demons needed in the second to take the lead or tie it up late, falling to the visiting Panthers 20-13, dropping to 0-2 on the season.
“Honestly, our defense is playing lights out right now; I’m pretty pleased with them,” Pat Engle, Glenwood’s second-year head coach said. “They looked pretty good tonight. I bet they were on the field for 16 or 18 of the 24 minutes in the second half for sure. They certainly played well and gave us multiple chances in the end.”
Heading into the half, Glenwood was in great position to pick up its first win of the season in the home opener as the Demons scored a late touchdown to make it 14-13 on a 4-yard run from senior fullback Elliott Walz. However, the missed extra point loomed large heading into the locker room.
Coming out of the break, Harrison took the opening kickoff and reeled off an 18-play drive that ultimately ended in a turnover on downs at the Glenwood 20-yard line with just 2:43 left in the third quarter.
On that opening drive, a 15-yard pass from junior quarterback Jaseim Mitchell to junior wide receiver Kahli Dotison, and a 13-yard hook-up from Mitchell to Dotison moved the chains, while a personal foul on Glenwood Springs also assisted Harrison in marching down the field.
However, Glenwood’s defense stood tall in a sign of things to come in the second half as Glenwood junior defensive end Camden Hassell sacked Mitchell for an 8-yard loss, forcing Harrison into a 4th and 30 before turning the football over on downs at the 20-yard line.
As the defense stood tall and ultimately got the stops it needed to, Glenwood’s offense couldn’t get out of neutral in the second half.
Following the turnover on downs by Harrison, Glenwood took over at the 20-yard line and proceeded to lose 7 yards on a holding penalty and a sack before junior running back Garrett Dollahan picked up 14 yards on 3rd and 17, giving senior punter Patrick Young room to kick, flipping the field in favor of Glenwood’s defense.
Once again though, Harrison mounted another lengthy, time-consuming drive going 62 yards in 11 plays before senior running back Romeo Wells plowed into the end zone from 5 yards out to make it 20-13 Harrison after a failed 2-point conversion with 8:24 left in the game. Harrison’s scoring drive was aided by a personal foul late hit out of bounds by a Glenwood defender on Mitchell’s 16-yard scramble on 2nd and 15, pushing the Panthers well into Demon territory.
Trailing by one score, the Glenwood offense again couldn’t get going as Dollahan had a tough time handling a high pitch from senior quarterback Dylan Albright, losing 8 yards, ultimately leading to another punt from Young.
At that point in the game, roughly 5:53 remained on the night, but Glenwood’s defense had a few more stops in them.
Glenwood forced a quick 3-and-out, giving the Demons’ offense the ball back, but on 2nd and 9 near midfield after a pass interference call on Harrison, Albright hooked up with sophomore running back Blake Nieslanik in the left flat for a gain of 2 yards. Held up by a defender after the catch, Nieslanik had the ball ripped way from him as the Panthers recovered for what surely should have been the game-deciding play.
Instead, Glenwood’s defense played hero one more time, forcing a fumble by Harrison senior running back Timmy Evans, who was injured on the play, giving the Demons the ball back with just under 2 minutes to play at their own 17-yard line.
Albright kept the potential game-tying drive alive with a 4th and 1 scramble to move the chains, before firing deep to junior tight end Wheatley Nieslanik down the right sideline for 30 yards, giving Glenwood hope on the night.
That would be the last completion on the night though for Albright, as the senior quarterback misfired on his final 4 attempts, giving the Panthers back the ball to kneel out the win.
“With the type of offense that we run, you cannot put the football on the ground; you just can’t,” Engle said after the loss. “You can’t have false starts and holding calls, and things like that. We just have to be a bit more disciplined offensively and not turn the ball over so much, putting us in situations like that at the end of the game.”
Prior to the tough second half, Glenwood’s offense looked solid in the home debut, as Blake Nieslanik took the first play of the game 44 yards down the left sideline, igniting the home crowd. That would be it for fireworks on the first drive though as Nieslanik later fumbled on 3rd and 6 at the Harrison 22, ending the scoring threat for the Demons.
Taking advantage of the early turnover, Harrison marched 80 yards in 8 plays thanks to a 12-yard run by Wells, a 22-yard pass from Mitchell to senior Matthew Robinson, and a 23-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell to junior Seth Fuller, who tapped his toes in the back of the end zone for the game’s opening score.
Trailing 6-0 late in the first quarter, Glenwood’s defense made the first great play of the game as Hassell and senior linebacker Thor Melby combined to sack Mitchell deep in his own territory while popping the football free. Dollahan recovered, setting Glenwood up with a 1st and goal at the Harrison 6-yard line.
Two plays later, Albright snuck in from a yard out, and junior kicker Tyler Thomas drilled the extra point attempt, giving the Demons a 7-6 lead with 11:55 left in the second quarter.
Two possessions later, Glenwood failed to convert on a fake punt, giving Harrison great field position. Mitchell then found Fuller again, this time on a double move down the right sideline for the 18-yard touchdown on 4th and 10. Mitchell then converted the 2-point conversion, giving the Panthers a 14-7 lead with just under 6 minutes left in the first half.
That’s when Walz scored to make it 14-13 at the half, setting up the physical second half.
In the loss, Blake Nieslanik rushed for 60 yards on 9 carries and added 2 catches for 41 yards, while Dollahan gained 34 yards on 7 carries. Walz added 22 yards and a touchdown on the ground on 4 carries. Albright completed 5-of-13 passes for 82 yards. The senior also added 15 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
Harrison’s Wells rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Mitchell completed 8-of-15 passes for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns, both to Fuller on the night.
Glenwood Springs (0-2) travels to Conifer next Friday for a matchup with the Lobos at 7 p.m.
“This is all a process; we’re not going to duck anyone,” Engle said. “We’re playing much better football early in the season right now; the boys have put in a ton of work. Unfortunately, we’re just not getting the return right now. You just have to keep working though; you can’t lose faith in what we’re doing. Their time’s coming.”