Breaking down the game: Evergreen 17, Conifer 10

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By Michael Hicks

The following is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the fourth annual Mountain Bowl, won by the Evergreen Cougars 17-10 over the host Conifer Lobos on Sept. 22 at Lobo Field.


Conifer controlled the game in terms of yardage, outgaining the Cougars 75-49, but it was a turnover — a Thomas Kim fumble of a snap that Trey Tosetti recovered as the Lobos’ 31 — that Evergreen took advantage of. Three plays later, Ryan Hays was in the end zone for a 4-yard score. It was the only time — outside of barely crossing midfield later in the half — that Evergreen was on Conifer’s side of the field. “Mistakes always ruin football games. The less mistakes a football team has they’re going to win,” Kim said. “Turnovers just killed us. We just came out not on the right foot. We started out on the wrong foot.”


The only scoring came with 11 minutes, 4 seconds left before halftime on a 22-yard Travis Tadra field goal. However, the story of the quarter was Conifer’s missed opportunity right before halftime. The Lobos drove 76 yards on 17 plays to Evergreen 3 in just over eight minutes. They even took advantage of a 5-yard running into the kicker penalty against Evergreen after Tadra just missed a 38-yard field goal. But on 4th-and-goal, Conifer elected to go for it instead of a chip-shot kick. Thomas Kim’s pass to Seth Trujillo was off the mark, turning the ball over on downs. “We thought we could get Seth loose out there. We thought we could get it to him. We missed the pass. That’s what it was,” Conifer head coach Larry Fitzmaurice said.

The opportunistic Cougars took advantage of the first of two Conifer turnovers in the quarter. With Conifer driving deep into Evergreen territory, Ryan Hays picked off Lobos quarterback Thomas Kim at the Evergreen 18. On the next play, Hays, the 6-foot, 175-pound junior, broke free for a 68-yard run — the longest offensive play of the game — to set up Evergreen at the Conifer 14. Joe Danni capped the drive from there to push Evergreen ahead by two scores. “After the two losses, we, as a team, decided we needed to improve everything from our hustle to our discipline and to our coaching,” Hays said. “We saw Conifer and respected them as a great team, but the teams we played before them were as good, if not better, than Conifer.”

The teams traded scores on their opening drives — Evergreen getting a 27-yard Chase Kelley field goal before Conifer countered with a 3-yard Brandon Payer TD run. After forcing Evergreen to punt twice in the final six-plus minutes, Conifer got the ball back with 39.4 seconds left at the Cougars’ 42. But seven plays later, on 4th-and-17 from the 31, running back Matthew McClintock, off a screen pass from Thomas Kim, was tripped up by Evergreen junior linebacker Kipp Nilson after a 13-yard gain, preserving Evergreen’s third straight win in the series. “Their coaches saw us in a Cover-4 (defense) and tried a screen pass underneath. I got off my block, and I realized it. I came off and squared up the guy and took him out,” Nilson said.