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Eagles pull out all the stops, knock off Rams

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Dakota Ridge wins its league opener

By Michael Hicks

LAKEWOOD — The Dakota Ridge Eagles didn’t have to look far to get motivated for their Oct. 4 football game with Green Mountain. Recent history told the Eagles they needed only to look across the field.
Two years in a row the Rams escaped with wins over Dakota Ridge, with last year’s game essentially costing the Eagles a 4A postseason berth. But the Eagles won’t have to concern themselves with that in 2013.
Braxton Thais threw for two touchdowns and recovered a fumble for another as the Eagles rallied to score 10 points in the fourth quarter for a 23-14 win at Jeffco Stadium. It was the 4A Plains Conference opener for both teams.
“We told our kids that we had to win this game to have a chance to win a league championship. That’s our goal,” Dakota Ridge head coach Ron Woitalewicz said. “We talked, as coaches, we had to come out and win, not to stay in the game, not to play not to lose, not to stay close. That was kind of our approach to pull all the stops out.”
The Eagles (4-2, 1-0 4A Plains) certainly did that. On their first scoring drive, Jeremy Lujan faked a punt from the Green Mountain 45, rushing for 12 yards and a first down. Three plays later, Aaron Nelson took a draw play nine yards for a first down, setting up Thais’ 11-yard TD pass to Nick Cohn.
Green Mountain tied the game at 7 when Zane Larson returned a blocked punt 59 yards for a score, but late in the second quarter Thais recovered a fumble after a botched handoff to Nelson and scored from a yard out for a 13-7 halftime lead.
“It was my fault. I put the ball in a bad place for our running back, but I was able to recover from it and make a good play,” said Thais, who later threw an 18-yard screen pass to Nelson with 2:40 remaining in regulation to put the game away. All three Dakota Ridge TD drives were aided by a fourth-down conversion.
The Eagles held Green Mountain to just 47 yards of offense and one first down in the opening two quarters. The Rams’ lone TD drive went 80 yards on 14 plays, scoring on a 1-yard Josh Einertson TD run to open the fourth quarter.
It gave Green Mountain (3-3, 0-1) a brief 14-13 lead, but Zach Barwick kicked a 22-yard field goal midway through the fourth to put Dakota Ridge ahead for good.
“Our D-line was amazing. They were in the backfield every single play. The only reason I got two blocked passes was because they opened the holes for me,” linebacker Tyler Magana said.

Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.