Eagles’ wheels fall off in 2nd half

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By Michael Hicks

LAKEWOOD — It’s a problem that has reared its ugly head time and again for Dakota Ridge.
Three times this season the Eagles — against Green Mountain, Denver South and now Wheat Ridge — have had their 4A Plains Conference rivals on the ropes. And three times they’ve let them off.
The latest — a 21-10 loss to the Farmers on Oct. 26 at Jeffco Stadium — likely sealed Dakota Ridge’s postseason hopes.
“I’m not making excuses, but we’re still a fairly young team. They’ve got to learn to fight through some adversity when it hits them in the mouth,” Dakota Ridge head coach Ron Woitalewicz said. “That’s kind of been our tale all year. I thought we played great in the first half. We were real dominant in the first half. But a couple of bad things happen in the second half and we don’t respond. It’s something we’ve got to learn.”
Dakota Ridge learned that the hard way against Green Mountain, falling behind 20-0 at halftime and by 27 points in the third quarter before rallying to send the game into overtime tied at 34 only to lose in controversial fashion. The end result was all too similar against Denver South when the teams were tied at 21-all before the Rebels pulled away late for a 42-28 victory.
That said, the Eagles (5-4, 1-3 4A Plains) didn’t have any problems in the opening 24 minutes against Wheat Ridge. Dakota Ridge led 10-0 at the intermission thanks to a 76-yard Zac Koch TD pass to Evan Swaynie and a 25-yard Zach Barwick field goal. The Eagles had 276 yards of offense — 202 of that through the air — to just 75 for Wheat Ridge.
But all that went right for Dakota Ridge in the first half went horribly wrong in the second.
It started with a deflected Zac Koch pass turning into an interception by Tanner Weakland. Four plays later, the Farmers were in the end zone on a 10-yard shovel pass from Diego Garcia to Anthony McGinnis.
Then Wheat Ridge (8-1, 3-1 4A Plains) scored on its next two possessions — a 1-yard Vashon Mason plunge and a 36-yard McGinniss scamper — to send the Eagles to their second straight defeat and third in four games.