Turnovers, penalties slow down Evergreen

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By Dan Johnson

LAKEWOOD — When you’re a young team such as the Evergreen Cougars, you can’t afford to make mistakes.

The Cougars repeatedly shot themselves in the foot Sept. 25 in their 42-14 loss to Valor Christian at Trailblazer Stadium, and that bothered the coaching staff.

“At this point in the season, you’d like to not be still making rookie mistakes,” Evergreen coach Rob Molholm said. “Against a good football team like (Valor Christian), you have to play mistake-free football and we didn’t do that.”

The Cougars, who went back to a power-running attack after running the spread offense the past several years, were able to make waves against the bigger Eagles, but penalties doomed many a drive.

Evergreen was whistled for six false start penalties in the first half. Compounding matters was the lack of protection for quarterback Noah Ansley, who was sacked five times.

Despite the miscues, Evergreen hung tough early and appeared ready to make a game of it when Nic Johnson took a pitch down the left sideline 82 yards for a score. That brought Evergreen within a touchdown at 14-7 with 9 minutes, 2 seconds to play in the first half.

Valor Christian scored late in the half to push its lead up to 21-7, then opened the floodgates in the second half, scoring on its first two drives of the third quarter. A 15-yard interception return by George Talanoa made the score 42-7 in favor of the Eagles.

Johnson put the final Evergreen points on the board with a 64-yard run late in the fourth quarter.

Up next for Evergreen is a date with mountain rival Conifer.

The game takes on bigger significance as its the first true home game for the Cougars in 31 years. Up to 4,000 people are expected to be in attendance.

“If the kids can’t get fired up for that game, we’ve got problems,” Molholm said. “Conifer has owned us in recent years. They have a chip on their shoulder and rightfully so. It’s up to us to come out, be aggressive and play smash-mouth football against a very physical team.

“It’ll be a great atmosphere, for sure. I’m looking forward to it.”