Lone Tree made some plays, and played with heart, but ultimately couldn’t finish enough drives in the 42-17 loss to No. 2 WACO.
Isaac Oswald’s 16th completion resulted in a first down for WACO at the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter on Friday.
The game was already decided. Lone Tree trailed the 2nd-ranked Warriors 35-10 as the Lion defense lined up at the goal line for the first down play.
But the Lions would not cede the final yard yet.
A run up the middle gained maybe a foot. On second down, Andrew Hotz shot into the backfield and Lone Tree defenders wrapped up the ball carrier for a loss. On third down, WACO senior Simeon Reichenbach finally found the endzone.
The series was a microcosm of the game. Lone Tree made some plays, and played with heart, but ultimately couldn’t finish enough drives in the 42-17 loss to No. 2 WACO.
“I was proud of the kids for their effort,” Lone Tree coach Joe Donovan said.
“I thought this is what we didn’t have last week. If we could have, it would have been a whole different game. So I’m just proud of the kids and thank them for that effort.”
The Warriors scored on three of their first four possessions and were just 12 yards away from a four-touchdown lead when Joe Boxwell caught Oswald in the backfield for a loss of six yards. The WACO drive stalled at the 10-yard line.
The Lions’ first five possessions had gained a total of just 10 yards, as a 49-yard touchdown catch by Emmett Burke had been wiped out by offsetting penalties. Starting at the 10, Ethan Bockelman went back to Burke again for completions of 7 and 10 yards before finding senior Drew Gauley for a 62-yard score that cut the lead to 21-7.
An energized Lone Tree defense forced its second three-and-out of the first half after Hotz and Tyce Alt combined for a big tackle for loss.
“This was part of the process, we had senior leadership tonight.” Donovan said.
“It’s going to help these young kids understand what it’s going to take down the road to be a district champion. I just really thought we competed hard for the whole game. And that’s what we talked about all week.”
With 80 seconds left, the Lions were in position to cut the lead to two scores. A 10-yard completion to Burke and a pass interference penalty had the Lions near midfield, but the next pass was intercepted. Four plays later, WACO led 28-7.
Despite the demoralizing turn of events, the Lion defense came out of the halftime locker room and forced a punt on the first possession. Drew Gauley made three catches for 30 yards on the ensuing 18-play 58-yard drive, including a clutch 15-yard reception on third-and-10. Gauley capped the drive with a 32-yard field goal to score the first points of the second half.
“I thought our seniors made some plays, “Donovan said. “You know Drew Gauley stepped up and made some plays, I thought Caden Smith had his best game of the year. Tyce Alt I thought quietly played a nice game. So it was good to see so many seniors have good games.”
The Warriors were also led by their seniors. Oswald finished 16-of-25 for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Oleh Shtefanchuck caught three passes for 107 yards and also picked off a pair of Lone Tree passes. Reichenbach finished with 125 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Gauley led Lone Tree with six catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were just trying some things, trying to lose some guys in coverage — and we got them,” Gauley said. “So, we just kept going back to it.”
While the Warriors were able to take advantage of a couple of interceptions to widen the margin of victory, the Lions felt good about their response to adversity.
“We came in knowing that they’re a really good team, and whenever we got down, we stayed up,” Gauley said. “If they’re the number two team in the state, I think we could be right up there — we played real well.”
Gauley now leads Lone Tree with 248 receiving yards this year. Bockelman had thrown seven touchdown passes to Burke and Jader Sanchez this season before finding Gauley for the 62 and 72-yard yard scores against the No. 2 Warriors.
“He’s a really good route runner,” Donovan said. “He’s done this all year in practice, so it’s good for him to finally get some of those catches. Even that last one that he didn’t catch, he laid out for it, and that’s what leadership is. That’s showing the young kids that regardless of score, you play every play, and that’s what I was proud about.”
Burke also had six receptions and finished with 42 yards.
Maddox Jondle led the defense with 7.5 tackles, and Alt had 6.5. Boxwell, Smith and Braden Viers each made five tackles and Smith recorded a sack.
Bockelman led the Lions with 30 rushing yards and 220 through the air. He threw two touchdown passes with two interceptions.
“Those little mistakes are costly, but it’s part of the learning process,” Donovan said. “We did a lot of learning tonight and we competed hard.”
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