AURORA | Vista PEAK’s first varsity football play didn’t go so well, but the Bison were solid the rest of the way Friday night.
The Bison jumped offside on the opening kickoff of their game against Hinkley at Aurora Public Schools Stadium, but recovered a squib kick on the next play and were off an running in their varsity debut.
Junior quarterback Adam Puehler rushed for two touchdowns, including what turned out to be the game-winner in the second quarter, and sophomore Isaiah Young had a 33-yard fumble return for a touchdown as Vista PEAK came away with an emotional 20-14 Zero Week victory in front of an announced crowd of 733. Sophomore Kyree Herron ran for 108 yards for the Bison, who had a small core play just about every snap.
“It was up and down the whole game; those last nine minutes were longer than I thought they would be,” Vista PEAK coach Pat Rock said. “I think we played about 15 guys and they are exhausted. They are unbelievable.”
Chance Drake threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Kamoni Wash and scored from 7 yards out in the final minute of the first half, but Hinkley couldn’t overcome three turnovers and a variety of penalties in key situations. Tyrae McFall rushed for 80 yards and Wash finished with 50 yards receiving for the Thunderbirds, who play host to Thornton on Sept. 1.
Following the opening offside penalty on the opening kickoff, Young executed a squib kick that was covered by Adam Priester to give Vista PEAK the first possession. The Bison drove down to the Hinkley 18, but turned the ball over on downs.
The Thunderbirds ended up getting on the scoreboard first a few minutes later, as Drake rolled to his right and found a wide open Wash for a long touchdown, then ran in the two-point conversion. Young nearly fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but scooped the ball up and returned it 75 yards to the Hinkley 11.
Two hard runs by Herron got the ball to the 1-yard line and Puehler crashed in from a yard away for the Vista PEAK’s milestone first touchdown.
Just two minutes later, a bad exchange between Drake and running back Dante Richardson put the ball on the turf and Young struck again, snatching it up and racing untouched into the end zone. Puehler then hit him with the two-point conversion pass.
“It felt great, but it was a team effort,” Young said. “I couldn’t get through the line by myself. It definitely felt good.”
A 45-yard scamper by Herron set up the Bison’s last scoring drive of the half, as Puehler dragged tacklers into the end zone for a 9-yard score and a 20-8 advantage. Michael Doss intercepted a pass by Young to give the Thunderbirds the ball with less than two minutes left in the half and they took advantage, as Drake snuck inside the left pylon with 12 seconds remaining.
A failed conversion pass left Vista PEAK with a 20-14 advantage at halftime.
The teams exchanged turnovers to open the third quarter — an interception by Hinkley’s Jesus Chavarria and a fumble recovery by Vista PEAK’s Tim Klem — and the neither really threatened the rest of the way.
The young Bison navigated out of a tricky situation late, as a 55-yard punt by Chavarria pinned them down at their own 3-yard line. Puehler read the defense and kept the ball, surging forward 18 yards to give Vista PEAK some breathing room.
“Picking that up was exciting,” said Puehler, who picked up 60 yards and two scores rushing, but completed just five of his 18 pass attempts, four of which were shovel passes.
Two Hinkley penalties on fourth downs helped it run out the clock. Puehler kneeled to end the game, igniting a big cheer from the fan base of the fledgling Bison, which met earlier at the school to send them off.
“Without getting a scrimmage, this was a good outcome; obviously we’ve got a lot to work on, but we can build off this,” Rock said. “It was a huge win for our athletic program to get things off on the right foot, so hopefully our kids can really enjoy this.”
The Bison enjoyed it afterwards, but the trio of Young, Herron and Puehler were looking forward to Saturday practice already.
“This was great, but we have so much to improve on as a young team,” Herron said. “We don’t get tired. It’s go, go, go, that’s how we get better.”
NOTES: A moment of silence was observed before the game for the victims of the July 20 shooting at the Century Aurora 16 theater that left 12 people dead and wounded 58 others. Vista PEAK’s helmets had decals on the back with black and blue ribbons that read “Aurora CO, 7/20 2012.”
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-750-7555
VISTA PEAK 20, HINKLEY 14
Score by quarters:
Hinkley 8 6 0 0 — 14
Vista PEAK 14 6 0 0 — 20
Hinkley — Kamoni Wash 37 yard pass from Chance Drake (Drake run), 5:52
Vista PEAK — Adam Puehler 1 yard run (run failed), 4:45
Vista PEAK — Isaiah Young 33 yard fumble return (Young pass from Puehler), 2:59
Vista PEAK — Puehler 9 yard run (run failed), 7:18
Hinkley — Drake 7 yard run (pass failed), 0:12