LAKEWOOD — The Evergreen Cougars lamented a lack of fundamentals and missed opportunities after their season-opening defeat to Frederick on Aug. 30.
They may have been a little hard on themselves.
Evergreen lost 22-13 to the Warriors by virtue of two heave-ho touchdown passes that were both a half-step from never happening, and a fluky fumble turned touchdown return on the opening kickoff of the second half.
Strange things were happening on the new turf at Trailblazer Stadium in the Class 3A nonleague tilt, although it was little consolation to the Cougars.
“That all has to do with fundamentals,” Cougars running back Trent Butler said.
Butler opened the scoring with a 7-yard run in the second quarter and Drake Brown scored on a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter. Brown appeared to find the seams quicker as he ran for 84 yards on nine carries while Butler had 63 yards on 18 carries.
The Cougars moved the ball efficiently for good stretches, but seemed to get knocked out of their rhythm easily. The passing game seldom looked comfortable and the defense was stout (five sacks) inside the box but suspect in the secondary.
Junior quarterback Trevor Olson, who was missing two regular receivers, completed 14-of-22 passes for 149 yards and was intercepted once.
The Cougars did struggle with penalties and conditioning, as several players took themselves out of the game.
“I believe it’s a game where we shot ourselves in the foot,” Cougars coach Mike Sellers said. “We gave it away.”
The teams combined for five punts and just four first downs in the first quarter, although the Cougars did slowly win the battle for field position.
A short punt began their third drive on the Warriors 38 and the Cougars needed just four plays before Butler scored with a run around the right side.
Two penalties combined to kill the Cougars’ next drive and give the Warriors the on the Evergreen 31. The Warriors would score from there with a pass that managed to find its mark despite the fact Brown leveled quarterback Adrian Clough as he threw.
“Once we get the momentum we have to keep it going,” Butler said of the post-touchdown lull in the second quarter.
Brown would be involved in the turning point of the game as the Cougars emerged from halftime down 9-7 following Tanner Ellingsen’s 43-yard field goal just before the intermission.
Brown collected the kickoff, shook off a would-be tackler and tried his luck around the right side. The senior was spun around and stripped of the ball, which bounced opportunely to Frederick’s Jahde Lesner, who had no trouble taking it seven yards into the end zone.
Down 16-7, the Cougars got a blocked field goal from Wes Knoll and finally scored with 8:47 remaining when Brown’s touchdown run capped a 14-play drive that saw the Cougars twice convert on fourth down.
But the Warriors answered the same way they started. Clough rolled out to his left and released a pass just as he was hit by standout Cory Evans. Ellingsen hauled in the ball and ran it in for a 49-yard touchdown with 3:33 remaining.