Meeker rolls past depleted Grand Valley
All the hype surrounding Meeker running back TJ Shelton coming into Friday’s game at Grand Valley was justified by his performance in the Cowboys’ 55-8 win over the short-handed Cardinals, Friday, from TJ LaBorge Stadium.
Shelton, who entered the game as one of the leading rushers in all of 1A, finished with more than 150 rushing yards against the Cardinals and added two rushing touchdowns in the lopsided win in frigid conditions.
With a short-handed roster due to injuries at this point in the season, the Grand Valley Cardinals (0-8, 0-4) had a tall task in front of them with the 5-3 (3-1) Cowboys coming into town.
Unfortunately, the injuries to key players and the large amount of freshmen seeing action was too much to overcome against the Cardinals in the loss.
“Our kids came out and fought all night,” Grand Valley head coach Tim Lenard said. “We were a little out-matched, obviously. But I’m very proud of the effort tonight. Our younger kids are good kids, but they’re just a little undersized for tonight against the seventh-ranked team in the state.
“Hats off to Meeker; they did a great job. They run a great program out there, but I’m really proud of our kids tonight.”
The Cardinals were definitely outmatched, as Lenard said.
Right from the start it was apparent it would be a long night for the young and inexperience Cardinals.
On the second offensive play of the game for the Cowboys, Shelton raced untouched up the middle for a 70-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys in front 7-0.
A quick three-and-out by the Cardinals gave the ball right back to the Cowboys, who wasted little time adding their second score of the game.
Meeker quarterback Logan Hughes lofted a perfectly thrown ball to Sheridan Harvey for a 50-yard touchdown. Shelton would add the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 just three minutes into the game.
Another three-and-out and a short punt by the Cardinals set the Cowboys up in prime position to add another quick score.
Once again, Hughes took to the air, finding Devon Pontine for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 20-0 before fans had finished settling into their seats.
From there, the Cowboys continued to throw the ball well, allowing them to march up and down the field in the first half.
After a few quick passes from Hughes to Hunter Garcia and Cole Brown, Shelton did the rest of the work on Meeker’s fourth offensive possession of the first half, racing around left-end for a 33-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 midway through the second quarter.
Hughes would add a 28-yard heave to Cole Brown just before time ran out in the first half to send the Cowboys to the locker room with a 35-0 lead.
With all of the attention placed on Shelton in the first half, it allowed Hughes and his receivers to have loads of success through the air.
“Our passing game has improved a bunch throughout the year,” Meeker head coach Shane Phelan said. “Those guys put in a lot of work this summer, so some of that work is starting pay off for us as the year progresses.”
Down 35-0 at the start of the second half, the Cardinals refused to go away despite the advantage held by Meeker.
Following a fumble on the third play of the second half by Grand Valley that led to a Hughes 10-yard keeper to make it 43-0, the Cardinals turned to freshman running back Levin Nolan on the ground.
Although yards were hard to come by for the Cardinals throughout the game, Nolan showed flashes of the future with some positive runs in the second half.
After a Grand Valley turnover on downs at their own 23-yard line negated some good runs by Nolan, Meeker freshman running back Eli Hanks added another score for the Cowboys, making it 49-0 with the mercy clock running.
From there, Nolan took over for the Cardinals.
Running over the left side and in between the tackles, Nolan bashed his way down the field for Grand Valley, eventually capping off the impressive drive with a five-yard touchdown to put the Cardinals on the board.
Quarterback Jeffrey Holbrook would add the two-point conversion by running over two Meeker defenders at the right-side pylon to make the score: Meeker 49, Grand Valley 6.
“Obviously it felt great to get one there,” Lenard said. “Levi is a freshman and he’s done a great job for us since [Jonathan] Pena went down. We’re just real proud of those guys because they have a lot of heart and keep fighting. That’s what we’re trying to build here. We’ve got a bright future if these kids stick it out and keep working hard.”
To add salt to an open wound, Hanks then took the first play following the Cardinals touchdown 76 yards to the house to make it 55-8, Meeker as the final horn sounded. The touchdown by Hanks was unintentional. Phelan said that the Cowboys were just looking to run out the clock, not looking to run it up.
With a week to get ready for the final game of the year at Lake County, the Cardinals look to close out the season in a positive fashion.
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As the heat of the summer gives way to cooler mornings, summer trail race opportunities are slowly coming to an end.