Compiling even a .500 record during a rebuilding year is good for many high school football teams. Ponderosa made it to the Class 4A semifinals before losing 32-0 to Skyline on Nov. 24 at Echo Park …
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Compiling even a .500 record during a rebuilding year is good for many high school football teams.
Ponderosa made it to the Class 4A semifinals before losing 32-0 to Skyline on Nov. 24 at Echo Park Automotive Stadium. The Mustangs finished with a 10-3 record in what was labeled as a rebuilding year — a fact that brought a smile to the face of coach Jaron Cohen during a blowing snowstorm.
“Not only did we lose a lot of key starters from last year, this was a team with a lot of new starters and young guys and we had a lot of key injuries,” said Cohen. “For us to finish 10-3 and be in the semifinals, I am incredibly proud of our players and coaching staff."
Ponderosa's trip to the semifinals was a game that began with sun and wind and ended with wet, blowing snow.
Skyline, the ninth seed in the 4A playoffs, jumped to a 13-0 lead after the first quarter. The Falcons ran 20 plays in the opening period compared to four for the Mustangs. That set the tone for the rest of the game.
About the only element of the game that didn't go the Falcons way was placekicking as they missed an extra point, had two PAT kicks blocked and missed two field goals.
Ponderosa, seeded fifth, was forced go all out in the second half and had six failed fourth-down attempts, which set up the Falcons with good field position.
Three Ponderosa starters sustained season-ending injuries and were out of the lineup for the semifinal contest. Linebacker Nick Hoff (ACL) missed the final seven games of the season, sophomore quarterback Jack Hanenburg (collarbone) played in nine of the Mustangs' 13 games and cornerback Jake Muniz (ankle) was forced to watch 10 games.
The Mustangs managed to gain only 76 yards total offense, 32 rushing and 44 passing, against the Falcons. Skyline rushed for 244 yards in advancing to the Dec. 1 state championship game.
“Skyline came out, played well and hats off to them,” said Cohen. “They had a good defensive plan, executed it and outplayed us. That's on me for not putting together a plan to get our kids ready. I thought we had a good plan but we just didn't have our best game. We picked a bad week to have it.”
Ponderosa's best chance to score came late in the second quarter, when the Mustangs were trailing 13-0. The Mustangs had the ball on the Skyline 8-yard line but Dylan Hollowell's pass was intercepted at the goal line with 11 seconds remaining before halftime.
“We wanted to score at the end of the half but I don't know if that was a huge difference maker,” said Cohen, who has led the Mustangs to a 29-7-0 record over the past three seasons. “That would have given us a little momentum but they outplayed us on offense, defense and special teams.”
Senior running back Koby Kercher was the Mustangs chief offensive threat against the Falcons as he finished with 42 yards rushing on 17 carries and caught two passes for seven yards.
Kercher led the team in rushing for the season with 757 yards. Hollowell, a senior, passed for 833 yards after replacing the injured Hanenburg, who threw for 711 yards in the nine games he played. Junior Joe Hufford led the receiving corps with 37 receptions for 716 yards and eight touchdowns.
Defensively, senior linebacker Ryder Blair came into the semifinal game with 141 total tackles to lead state 4A statistics. Senior defensive end Ethan Waite had 10 sacks and 17 hurries.
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