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Fowler defeats Holly, will host Merino in A-8 playoffs

Ken Hamrick
Fowler Tribune
Fowler High School quarterback Braxton Bates (18) follows the block of Antonio Aragon (4) in last Friday's 16-14 win over Holly at Vibber Field. The Grizzlies will host Merino in the state playoffs Saturday at 1 p.m.

Friday the 13th didn't look too good early for the second-ranked Fowler High School football team when it hosted Class A-8 No. 8 Holly at Vibber Field.

A few mistakes helped put the Grizzlies into a 14-0 hole. However, Fowler was able to recover and it came back to defeat the Wildcats 16-14.

"We just kept believing in ourselves," said Fowler coach Mark Van Sickle. "The kids beared down and put some good drives together and found a way to take the lead."

The Grizzlies had the ball first and they were able to drive into Wildcat territory. However, Fowler was pushed back by penalties and was eventually were forced to punt.

Holly immediately got into the red zone after a 70-yard pass from Dakota Eaton to Fernando Dominguez put the Wildcats on the Fowler 6-yard line. Holly scored two plays later as Wyatt Cook went six yards for a touchdown. Eaton scored on the two-point conversion for an 8-0 Wildcats lead.

Fowler punted again on its next possession and again a long pass play from Eaton to Dominguez, this time a 59-yarder, put Holly on the Fowler 11. Eaton tossed a 9-yard scoring pass to Colby Swopes, but the two-point conversion play was unsuccessful and the Wildcats led 14-0.

The Grizzlies got on the scoreboard on their next drive as they went 77 yards on nine plays. Jackson Bates capped off the drive with a 22-yard run, and he also scored on the two-point conversion to close the deficit to 14-8.

The Wildcats answered with a potential scoring drive of their own. However, it stalled at the Fowler 34 and Holly turned the ball over on downs.

The Grizzlies did the same on their next possession as they advanced to the Holly 26. However, Fowler too turned the ball over on downs and the score remained 14-8.

The Grizzlies got the first turnover of the game as Braxton Bates intercepted Eaton's pass. It looked as though Fowler would take the lead, but it lost the ball on a fumble.

The Wildcats attempted some trickery on the ensuring plays. However, Gabriel Proctor tackled Andre Salgado in the end zone for a safety and the Holly lead was reduced to 14-10.

After the teams then exchanged punts, the Grizzlies put themselves into scoring position after a 23-yard pass from Braxton Bates to Rylee Smith. Braxton Bates scored on an 18-yard quarterback keeper two plays later, but the two-point conversion was unsuccessful.

Holly punted on its next possession, and Fowler went on another long drive. The Grizzlies turned the ball over on downs, but the drive took a lot of time off the clock.

Holly also turned the ball over on downs and Fowler ran out the clock.

Fowler tallied 262 yards of total offense with 193 coming on the ground. Antonio Aragon led the Grizzly ground game with 65 yards on 11 carries, followed by Braxton Bates with 61 yards on 17 carries and Jackson Bates with 54 yards on 15 carries.

Braxton Bates completed 4 of 11 passes for 69 yards. Smith was his top target with two receptions for 53 yards, and Jackson Bates had two catches for 16 yards.

Smith also excelled in the punting game as he averaged 49 yards on three kicks.

Holly had 286 total yards — 242 passing and 44 rushing.

Eaton completed 13 of 22 pass for 242 yards. Dominguez led in receiving with four catches for 149 yards, and Eli Ramos had four receptions for 33 yards.

Cook was the Wildcats' top rusher with 27 yards on seven carries, followed by Eaton with 20 yards on five carries.

Fowler capped off an undefeated regular season with six wins and non losses. The win solidified a playoff berth for the Grizzlies. They had to wait until Sunday to determine their first-round opponent.

"They're going to be tough with only eight teams getting in," Van Sickle said. "We hope we get a home game. We'll be ready to go and we welcome anybody who wants to play us. So we're going to be ready to go no matter what."

The Grizzlies got what they requested as they are the No. 3 seed in the A-8 playoffs and will host sixth-seeded Merino on Saturday. Kickoff at Vibber Field is at 1 p.m.

NOTES: The game was delayed 30 minutes because of a Holly bus break-down on the way to Fowler. Fowler has now won 19 consecutive regular season games. The last time the Grizzlies dropped a regular season contest was on Sept. 28, 2018 as they lost to Hoehne, 44-0.

FOWLER 16, HOLLY 14

Holly 14 0 0 0 — 14

Fowler 0 8 8 0 — 16

First quarter

H — Cook 6 run (Eaton kick), 6:22

H — Swopes 9 pass from Eaton (run failed), 0:56

Second quarter

F — J. Bates 22 run (J. Bates run), 8:14

Third quarter

F — Safety, G. Proctor tackled Salgado in end zone, 7:23

F — B. Bates 18 run (pass failed), 0:06

Tribune-Democrat reporter Ken Hamrick can be reached by email at khamrick@ljtdmail.com. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.