Without quarterback Sean Farley's arm and tight end Nolan Rookey's field position to counter that of wide receiver Markeith McDonald, the Summit Tigers' offense was stalled in its matchup with Conifer (7-2 overall, 4-1 in 3A Metro-West) on home turf Friday night.
"We had a couple key injuries last night and had to put some things together. We've had problems all year when we've been missing Sean," head coach Dylan Hollingsworth said.
Senior running back Nic Berry stepped into the quarterback position, making spot-on throws to McDonald that went incomplete in a tough defensive environment.
"(Quarterback is) just not his specialty nor has he practiced it all year," Hollingsworth said. "We needed to do what we could to stay in that game. Conifer is a very good team. They're ranked in the top five in the state for a good reason."
Berry also led a running game that made some progress against the Conifer defensive line, but was rampant with fumbles.
Then again, the 17-degree weather at Tiger Stadium made it tough for both teams to hold onto the ball.
"The cold is a mental thing. When the points and the mistakes roll up on you, and the cold, it's easy to hang your head," Hollingsworth said.
The game finished 47-6, with each team scoring once in the second half. It's there that the Tigers stepped up their game, with Ben Sloan, Berry and Duncan Roberts performing well on defense. Roberts appeared to put significant pressure on the Lobos' offense.
The Lobos scored on an interception during the first Tigers possession following halftime. From then on, Summit's defense stalled the Conifer running game - and vice versa, including penalties and fumbles - until Summit seemed to break the barrier, continuing a drive begun in the third quarter to move the ball to the 26-yard line.
There, Berry switched from a running tactic to a series of floating passes to McDonald in the endzone. A pass interference penalty on the first throw moved Summit to the 11-yard line. Berry bobbled the snap, but recovered it, putting the Tigers at third and 12. Berry repeated the throwing play, again with man-on-man defense on McDonald. The pass was nearly intercepted, but McDonald wrestled the pigskin away from the defender as they tumbled to the ground, maintaining possession for the Tigers and putting them at fourth and 12. Going for it, Berry quickly saw defensive pressure but got a pass off to McDonald - which floated past the endzone.
With 30 seconds left in the game, Summit came through with a touchdown throw from Berry to McDonald, putting points on the board and keeping the Tigers from a shutout.
"Markeith was calling for the ball. He wanted an opportunity. Given another opportunity, he made the most of it," Hollingsowrth said.
With the clock running, the Tigers made quick work of moving into a two-point conversion attempt, which failed.
Hollingsworth repeated the triad of problems that have plagued the team from the start of the season as problems Friday night: penalties, turnovers and missed tackles.
Offensively, Hollingsworth pointed out Grant Koch's performance on the line, which he has anchored all year on the right side, allowing the ball to move behind him.
The Tigers are now 2-7 on the season (1-4 3A Metro-West), with wins coming against Battle Mountain and Alameda. Next week, they face Evergreen for the final game of the season.
"They're looking for revenge. We were the only team to beat them in the regular season last year when they went 9-1," Hollingsworth said, adding that he'd bet the Evergreen coach has put a target on the Tigers for his team.
Meanwhile, the junior varsity football team has lost just two games all year, beating Conifer Saturday in overtime.
"For the seniors, this last game is their Super Bowl, their championship. For the younger kids, it's an opportunity to take one more week and get better," Hollingsworth said. "We're really excited about the future, but we want these seniors to finish with a good taste in their mouths."