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Cougars pull off another late win in Mountain Bowl

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Joe Danni’s TD run gives Evergreen a fourth straight victory over Conifer

By Michael Hicks

Rob Molholm was exasperated. And, yet, the Evergreen High football coach was just walking the sidelines. But the Mountain Bowl has a way of doing that to one, especially after the latest chapter.
The Evergreen-Conifer rivalry may be one-sided in the final results the past four years, but each time, the game has been riveting. That was again the case Sept. 20 at Evergreen High School. The host Cougars, who trailed for the entire first half, rallied in the fourth quarter with a Joe Danni 20-yard TD run with 5 minutes, 57 seconds remaining for a 23-22 victory.
“I’m exhausted right now,” Molholm said. “The boys played hard. They played hard. Conifer played extremely hard. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They’re very physical, but Evergreen is very, very physical as well. This just isn’t going to be an easy game, is it? This game is going to kill me.”
It didn’t, but it certainly was a nail-biter until the bitter end.
Evergreen (3-1, 1-0 3A Metro West) has won the Cou-Lo Trophy, awarded to the winner of the game, four years in a row. This one, just like the last three, has come down to the final minutes. And just like in 2010 when the Cougars won 17-13, in 2011 when EHS won 13-9 or last year’s 17-10 thriller, Evergreen has walked off the field with bragging rights.
“It’s pretty tough. All the players out there gave it all they had. We made a few mistakes late in the game on those two big runs on that one drive to put them back in the lead,” Conifer senior Brandon Payer said.
Conifer last won in the series in 2009 — the first year the Mountain Bowl trophy was awarded. Thus, this year’s senior class went 0-4 against Evergreen.
“It’s hard on them,” Conifer assistant coach Eric Kragel said. “They wanted to win this game, especially after the last couple of years. They wanted to win this game. It just didn’t happen. Hats off to Evergreen. They played hard. Our kids played extremely hard short-handed. It’s going to hurt them.”
Conifer (2-2, 0-1) played without starters Jakob Evens and A.J. Eleniewski, who were suspended for one game after being ejected from the previous week’s upset loss to Vista Peak. Head coach Larry Fitzmaurice was also sidelined after he was tossed a week earlier as well. The Lobos, however, overcame those absences to lead throughout the first half.
Kailib Geer put Conifer ahead 7-0 early with a 55-yard scamper down the left sideline. Evergreen closed to within 7-6 on the first of two Jack Curtis-to-Marcus Cassin TD passes — this one for 25 yards, but Matt Hornbecker’s extra-point attempt was blocked.
Payer put the Lobos ahead 14-6 on a 1-yard plunge midway through the second quarter before Hornbecker kicked a 28-yard field goal to close the first half.
Curtis hit Cassin for a 19-yard score on the opening possession of the second half to give Evergreen its first lead 16-14. Curtis was 14-of-23 passing for 190 yards. Cassin caught nine passes for 146 yards.
That’s where things stood until midway through the fourth. A botched snap on an Evergreen punt sailed over Davis Price’s head and into the end zone where Aleks Renfro recovered it for a Conifer touchdown. Richie Benson’s 2-point conversion run put the Lobos ahead 22-16, but only briefly.
Two offensive plays later — a 60-yard scramble by Curtis and Danni’s TD run — and Hornbecker’s subsequent extra point proved to be the deciding points.
Conifer got the ball at its own 27 but managed just two yards before punting. Out of timeouts, the Lobos were at the mercy of stopping Evergreen’s offense. But the Cougars converted two first downs to run out the clock.

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Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.