LAKEWOOD — Dakota Ridge head coach Ron Woitalewicz walked across the field at his own pace. So did Eagles volunteer assistant coach Jim Juliana.
Just moments earlier, both coaches, arguing an illegal touching call that negated an Eagles’ recovery of an onside kick at midfield, were ejected from the game in which Dakota Ridge lost 34-21 to Denver South on Oct. 18 at Jeffco Stadium.
Denver South, behind rushing touchdowns from four different players, never trailed in winning a battle between teams who were previously unbeaten in league play. Tyson Purifoy, Zachary Lindsay, Malcolm Wright and Johnnie Coleman rushed for scores for the Rebels (6-2, 3-0 4A Plains), spoiling Dakota Ridge’s homecoming.
The Eagles had pulled to within 28-21 with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left on a 13-yard TD pass from Braxton Thais to Dillon DeLauro when the Eagles attempted an onside kick straight up the middle. Dakota Ridge players circled kicker Zach Barwick after the kick. The ball appeared to roll the mandatory 10 yards before the Eagles recovered, but officials told the Dakota Ridge sideline that the ball clipped off the heel of an Eagles player, negating the recovery.
Officials, instead of throwing a penalty flag on the play, threw a bean bag, which typically signals the recovery of a live ball, Woitalewicz said. That, as much as anything else, is what upset the Dakota Ridge coaching staff. But it was the Rebels’ big plays that befuddled the Eagles’ defense.
“We had a couple of big plays. We had one at the 1 where we gave up the long-pass play that ended up being a 99-yard touchdown drive. We had them 1st-and-31 and they ran a flea-flicker. It was a great call, great play on their part,” said Woitalewicz, who, ejected for the first time in his 29 years of coaching high school football, must sit out this week’s game with Wheat Ridge.
“I was proud of our kids. They fought. They competed. They never got down and battled to the end. I will look at the film, but I’m pretty sure we got that onside kick. Who knows where it would’ve gone from there.”
Instead of Dakota Ridge (5-3, 2-1) having the ball at midfield down a touchdown with 2 minutes left, the three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties set Denver South up at the Eagles’ 9. Two plays later, Lindsay scored a 1-yard TD to end Dakota Ridge’s four-game winning streak.
Thais rushed for Dakota Ridge’s first touchdown -- a 1-yard keeper in the second quarter to send the game into halftime tied. He also threw a pair of second-half TD passes to DeLauro. Yet, more than how the Eagles lost, it was the frustrating way it lost that had players upset after the game.
“It is (frustrating),” DeLauro said. “We never should’ve been in that situation. We made lots of mistakes early, gave up big plays. We’ll remember this next week.”
The defeat puts Dakota Ridge in a must-win situation the next two weeks against Wheat Ridge and Littleton if it has any hope of returning to the 4A state playoffs.
“Every week is a must-win week for us,” running back Aaron Nelson said. “We’ll take it one week at a time. We’ll focus on Wheat Ridge right now. That’s who we’re going to play.”
Contact Michael Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.