LAKEWOOD — Evergreen coach Rob Molholm is a Farmer at heart.
So when Molholm stood in the shadow of the scoreboard at Trailblazer Stadium on Friday that showed his Cougars losing 14-10 to Elizabeth, he thought back to his gridiron roots. And for a guy from Wheat Ridge, a program with shelf full of state titles and a tough-guy reputation, moral victories don’t get you very far.
“We got a lot of things to work on, but one thing we don’t have to work on is heart,” Molholm said.
The Cougars (0-2) fought to the bitter end against a Cardinals team they have not defeated since Evergreen advanced to the Class 3A state championship game in 1999.
Evergreen scored first, led 10-7 at halftime and prevented the Cardinals from putting the game out of reach with two clutch takeaways in the fourth quarter. The rebuilt offense had its moments, but the task of putting together a long game-winning drive against a dug-in defense was too much to ask.
At least in Week Two. The Cougars, however, didn’t look like a team very far from flexing that kind of grit and muscle.
“We feel good about some of the progress,” Molholm said. “I shouldn’t keep repeating this, but we do have 17 brand new starters.”
And with that came “a ton of rookie mistakes.” At the same time, some of the new pieces were quite entertaining.
Sophomore quarterback Noah Ansley was elusive, scampering for 36 yards and throwing for 47. His 39-yard kickoff return to start the game set up the Cougars’ first scoring drive, capped by a 27-yard field goal by Owain Hickey.
Running back Nic Johnson, who usually lines up and smashes like a fullback, scored Evergreen’s only touchdown on a brilliant 85-yard toss to the right side.
Johnson, also a standout on defense with Nick Keitlen, rushed for a game-high 116 yards on 15 carries.
The Cougars were feast or famine in the secondary. They gave up a 31-yard touchdown pass on the Cardinals’ first drive, allowed them to convert several third- and four-and-long situations, but intercepted quarterback Dalton Taylor four times.
Michael Rogers got the first pick, and Sam Keen nabbed the ball on the final play of the first half and returned it 63 yards before getting tackled by the last Cardinal between him and the end zone.
The Cardinals scored the go-ahead touchdown on the opening drive of the second half and the Cougars could not answer. The Cougars did get interceptions from Cole Evans and Christian Ansley inside their own 20 to give the offense a chance.
“They never quit,” Molholm said. “We’re trying to bring a different intensity to the group and we’re trying to build this all about the team and not individuals.”