Sep 23, 2012 - By Randy Tucker, Sports WriterThough it is already mid-season, Friday's game at Cowley between Wind River and Rocky Mountain resembled an opening-day contest in terms of missed opportunities, penalties and broken plays.
Rocky Mountain broke a 6-6 tie late in the final period to take a 13-6 over the Cougars and move to 4-0 on the season in the process. Wind River drops to 1-3 with the loss.
Wind River dominated play throughout the opening half, limiting the Grizzlies to only 40 yards of total offense with just two minutes remaining in the second period.
Rocky Mountain's running game was non-existent until then but the Grizzlies were able to break a big play when Ethan Landers broke into the Cougar secondary on an I-back counter for a 78-yard scoring jaunt.
The Cougars were inside the 20-yard line twice in the opening half, but each time mental mistakes drove the ball back. The first surge ended on a holding penalty, but the second was much more costly, as a Ward Gordon scoring run on a draw play was brought back on a block-in-the-back penalty.
"We're allergic to the end zone," Wind River head coach Cullen Noffsinger said. "Five of our six holding penalties have been in the red zone this year."
Wind River drove deep on the opening series of the third period, but a bad snap and another penalty drove the Cougars out of field goal range, and they turned the ball over on downs.
The Cougar defense held Rocky to a three-and-out, and a balanced Wind River offense methodically moved the ball back up the field.
Zac Lindstadt threw the ball well, along with good running by Gordon, who cashed in on a six-yard run. The kick was blocked, and the score remained 6-6.
Rocky Mountain took the ensuing kickoff all the way back for an apparent score, but all five game officials threw flags on the play as three different Grizzly players were nailed with blocking in the back.
Rocky had two more scores negated in the game via penalty as well, with an interception return and a long pass both brought back on holding penalties.
Wind River moved to the Rocky Mountain 40 but fumbled the ball away early in the final period.
Rocky Mountain picked up a couple of first downs, then tallied the game winner on a screen pass from Kirby Winland to Wilson Flowers from the 26. Rocky faced four and six on the play and called time out. Wind River's Tyler Rupe made an excellent read on the screen pass, but the ball sailed through his hands to Flowers and the Grizzlies scored.
"I thought we had a pick six on the play, "Noffsinger said. "Tyler read it perfectly and had nothing but green ahead of him."
The Cougars misplayed the kickoff and were pinned inside their own 15 and missed three consecutive passes, forcing a punt. Ryan Weliever hit an excellent punt to reverse the field position. Wind River had chances again late in the game, but concentration wavered on the Cougar front line.
Rocky called a time out with a third-and-15 situation.
"I emphasized no pass interference and no facemask penalties," Noffsinger said. "Let them catch it in front of you, and make the tackle."
Winland's four-yard completion brought a pass interference penalty on the Cougars and a fresh set of downs for Rocky Mountain.
A second-and-long situation with 3:00 left in the game turned into another automatic first down on a facemask penalty on the Cougars.
With a little over a minute remaining, Wind River had one chance left to get the ball back but the Cougars were whistled for encroachment when Rocky went on two and the ensuing five-yard penalty converted fourth and five into a first down.
Rocky ran out the clock from there for the win. The Cougars host Saratoga this Friday.
WIND RIVER 0 0 6 0 -- 6
ROCKY MOUNTAIN 0 6 0 7 -- 13
RM - Ethan Landers 78-run (run failed)
WR - Ward Gordon 6-run (run failed)
RM - Wilson Flowers 27-pass from Kirby Winland (William Despain)
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