Lyons cornerbacks Zach Christiansen (10) and Preston Medina(1) stop the Yuma running back from entering the end zone in the fourth quarter.
By Oskar LaRue
This past Friday night marked the annual community BBQ, followed by the home-opener for the Lyons Lions football team. This year the Lions hosted the Yuma Indians, who just barely lost to powerhouse Limon the week before, and were hungry for their first win.
Also hungry (starving, really) were the masses of residents and visitors who queued up for grub before the game. The towering tornado of smoke
above the massive BBQ grill served as a beacon for those in search of sliders and dogs. Once fed, ticket-holders were treated to a great football game, courtesy of two fine school football programs. Kind of like dinner and a movie, only outside. And a lot cheaper.
The game began as all do, with the national anthem. Laps disappeared, hats were removed, young choir voices cleared, eyes scanned for the flag. Uh, where’s the flag? Gone from it’s usual pole, it wasn’t until “the rockets red glare” that the Stars and Stripes were spotted by younger eyes, proudly waving above the BBQ tent. Had Old Glory been positioned a little closer, she would’ve had a better view at how the Lions tripped up the Indians, twenty-three to fourteen, to stay undefeated after two games.
Lyons running back Kanyon Raper protects the ball as he busts through the line
Lyons scored on their first possession when running back Trent Poulsen followed linemen Steven Schopen, Zach Hoar, and Hector Rodriguez over the right side for a one-yard score. It was set up by a beautifully-conceived, and perfectly-executed fifty-three yard razzle-dazzle bomb, installed, just for Yuma, into the playbook just this week. Lyons quarterback Logan Watson handed off to Poulsen, who then lateraled back to Watson. He then hurled a perfect rainbow to wide receiver Zach Christiansen, who streaked past the Yuma defenders and made a gorgeous over-the-shoulder grab. Definitely highlight material. It’s probably on YouTube already. Poulsen’s kick put the Lions up seven to nothing.
Yuma had to settle for three-and-out on their first possession. Lyons outstanding freshman linebacker Tanner Torello was heavy in the mix on all three plays. After the punt, the Lions went on the hunt again. Watson found sophomore running back Kanyon Raper wide open on the right side, and Raper escorted the pigskin thirty yards down the field. But then the ice cream turned to manure. The Lions were flagged for three penalties in the next ten plays, and Yuma got the ball back around their thirty yard line. Once again, Yuma went three-and-out, mostly because they tried to run on the side where the Lions’ sophomore defensive lineman “Big John” Hickman lives. So they punted again.
Lyons’ next possession was good, bad, and good. Good was Lyons’ wide receiver Austin Meyers’ pass reception and run of forty-two yards. Bad was when Watson tried to force a pass to his tight end, Bowe Herman, and was intercepted. Good, was although the Indians had the ball, they were on their own one-yard line. This must have made them nervous, because when it came time for them to punt from the one-yard line, their punter hurried a little and kicked the ball low, and who it bounced off of is anybody’s guess. The first quarter ended with the Lions up seven zip, and knocking on the door again.
After recovering the blocked punt, the Lions started at the Indians’ eleven-yard line, and went backwards from there. Fortunately, they didn’t retreat any further than thirty-seven yards from the goalposts, because that is exactly how far Lyons’ placekicker Poulsen found out he can kick it. His field goal attempt hit the crossbar and the hometown bounce made it ten to zero.
The joy along the east sidelines and in the hometown bleachers was short-lived though, as the Indians fought back and scored quickly on a sixty-two yard run, making the score ten to six after missing the extra point. The Indian defense held the Lions this time, and the Yuma got the ball right back. The Indians were driving down the field when they fumbled a lateral in their backfield. Lyons linebacker Herman kept the ball alive by knocking the running back out of the picture, and Torello picked up the loose ball and took it to Yuma’s thirty-seven-yard line.
From there the offense took it to the house in six plays, capped off by Poulsen’s seventeen-yard run around the left side. Poulsen’s extra point kick upped the score to seventeen to ten, Lyons. After both teams went three-and-out, Yuma got the ball again and was marching down the field, until Lyons’ safety Poulsen intercepted a pass to end the drive. The first half sounded with the score unchanged. Entertainment was provided by Dr. Karen Gregg’s one-hundred-piece orchestra (or so it seemed) and the Lyons cheer squad.
The third period started with Yuma receiving the kick, and driving the length of the field for a touchdown, and adding a two-point conversion to narrow the Lions’ lead to three points, seventeen to fourteen. The balanced Indians’ attack did it with their passing and running, biting off large chunks at a time. “Mighty Mo” (momentum) was shifting to the visitor’s side, and it was like a different Yuma team (must’ve been a heck of a halftime speech). As the Indians lined up to kick off to the Lions, one could feel the bubble of new-found confidence enveloping the visiting team. But then they had to go and kick it to Poulsen. Pop goes that bubble. Poulsen raced right up the middle nearly untouched all the way to the end zone, like the boy was running for a bowl of ribs. He was set loose on the run by a fantastic pancake block from Austin Meyers on a would-be tackler, with a real big emphasis on “would-be.” Poulsen‘s point after attempt was blocked, but now the Lions stretched their lead to twenty-three to fourteen. “Mighty Mo” had come back home.
The rest of the third quarter was mostly defensive in nature for the Lions, including good tackles by Schopen, Rodriguez, and linebacker Preston Medina. Linebacker Daniel Fager got in on the fun swatting down a pass. It was a great defensive stand by the entire team, especially considering Yuma, at one point, had a first-and-goal situation. The look of pride on Coach Brandon Wilkes’ face was hard to ignore.
Yuma had the ball at the start of the fourth quarter, and was moving the ball quite well, when Watson intercepted a tipped ball and brought it back to the Lions’ thirty-yard line. The offense stalled, and Poulsen punted to the Indians (yeah, he does that, too). Once again, Yuma was intercepted, this time by Meyers, who stole it away from the Yuma receiver in mid-air. But the offense still couldn’t muster a first down, and had to punt it back to their opponents. The Indians took the punt all the way down to the Lions’ seventeen-yard line. After three fruitless plays, the viistors converted a desperate fourth-and-ten pass play down to the Lyons one-yard line. It would have easily been a touchdown except for linebacker Preston Medina’s bone-jarring tackle at the one. The Indians fumbled on the next play, and who do you think recovered the ball in the end zone and sealed the victory for the Lions? Well, you’re wrong; it was Watson!