Rams debut new offense, struggle to score in loss to Cowboys
In an effort to add a new wrinkle to a strong rushing attack, the Roaring Fork Rams busted out the wishbone formation against the Gunnison Cowboys, Friday, but the Rams just couldn’t finish off drives with consistency, falling to the visiting Cowboys on Homecoming Night, 28-7.
Looking to make it harder for opposing defenses to stop them, the Rams waited until the final preseason game against the Cowboys to debut their new offense, which appeared to catch the Cowboys off guard to start the game.
Starting their first drive of the game at their own 20-yard line, the Rams methodically marched the ball down the field on the ground thanks to senior running backs Tyler Spence and Aldo Pinela.
In the wishbone, the Rams used misdirections, delays and power runs to their advantage, keeping the physical Cowboys defense off balance.
Opening up big holes for Spence and Pinela on the first drive, the Rams offensive line — led by senior guard Conrado Dolores, who was crowned Homecoming King — controlled the line of scrimmage, pushing the Cowboys front seven back repeatedly on the 15-play, 80-yard drive that quarterback Hayden Bernot capped off with a two-yard sneak up the middle to give the Rams a 7-0 lead just under six minutes into the first quarter.
“We did well on the first drive,” Rams head coach Jeff Kelley said. “We did exactly what we wanted to with our gameplan, which was score. The offensive line did great controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Following their long drive, the Rams defense forced the Cowboys into a three and out, but a misplayed punt resulted in a Gunnison recovery at the Rams’ 18-yard line. Three plays later, Colby Archuleta took a jet sweep over the left side of the line for an 8-yard touchdown, tying the game with 3:36 left in the first quarter.
After a 40-yard kickoff return by Aldo Pinela set the Rams up with good field position near midfield, the Cowboys defense tightened up, forcing the Rams to punt the ball from the Gunnison 39-yard line.
Directly after the punt, a bad snap resulted in an 11-yard loss for the Cowboys, pushing them back to their own 10-yard line. Fortunately for Gunnison, they were able to get out of the shadow of their own end zone thanks to running back Luke Tovar’s 14-yard run and fullback Ty Percival’s 25-yard run before ultimately turning the ball over on downs at the Rams 32-yard line.
Trying to get some more points on the board before halftime, the Rams picked up a 16-yard run by Pinela and a beautiful 11-yard strike from Bernot to Pinela to put them on the Cowboys side of the field. That would be all the Rams would get before an incomplete pass by Bernot on fourth down turned the ball over on downs to the Cowboys with roughly four minutes to go in the second quarter.
Trading three and outs, the Cowboys regained possession near midfield with just over two minutes left in the half.
Quarterback Josh Wallin kept the ball for a 9-yard pick up along the left sideline before being hit late out of bounds, tacking on another 15 yards, putting the Cowboys in Rams territory.
From there, Tovar ran for gains of 17- and six yards, and Percival picked up 11 yards, giving the Cowboys a first and goal at the Rams four-yard line.
Archuleta, on nearly an identical jet sweep to the left side, punched in his second touchdown of the game — this one from four yards out — putting the Cowboys up 14-7 heading into halftime.
“Our kids weren’t used to their fly sweep,” Kelley said. “It was the scheme. They kept getting the perimeter. We kept trying to find ways to stop it, but ultimately their receivers stock-blocked our defensive backs better.”
In the second half, the teams traded punts and turnover on downs until Wallin found Lane Magnum on a quick receiver screen from 8 yards out, putting the Cowboys up 21-7 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Forcing another three and out and a short punt, the Cowboys took over in Rams territory and marched 41 yards in nine plays as Percival capped off the scoring for the night with a one-yard plunge behind the left guard, giving Gunnison a 28-7 lead with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Trying to score quickly and execute an onside kick, the Rams relied on Spence to get them done the field. After a 29-yard run behind a pulling Dolores, Spence caught a bullet from Bernot for another 15 yards, putting the Rams in Cowboys territory. But that would be all for the Rams offense as Bernot looked for Alex Dominguez near the right sideline. Dominguez couldn’t come up with the ball, which appeared to be incomplete. However, the officiating crew — which had a rough night — inexplicably ruled it a fumble that was recovered by the Cowboys, ending any comeback attempt the Rams may have had left.
With the loss, the Rams fall to 2-2. Next week, they will travel to Aspen to take on the Skiers in the first 2A Western Slope League game of the season.
Capping off a solid preseason, the Rams now look to achieve their season goal of winning the league.
“We’re still learning,” Kelley said. “I’m pretty pleased with the way the preseason went. We’re right where we want to be, outside of a few kids getting hurt tonight, but I’m pleased with the effort. Olathe, Meeker and Gunnison are very tough teams. We were beat by a better team tonight, but we played well.”
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It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club were the de facto champions of their hosted tournament Saturday.