Merino ends Fowler's season, 22-6
The Class A-8 No. 3 Fowler High School football team fell into an early hole when it hosted sixth-seeded Merino in an eight-man football state playoff game Saturday at Vibber Field.
Mistakes helped lead to that early deficit, and those mistakes hurt as the Grizzlies lost to the Rams 22-6 to end Fowler's season.
"When you get to playoff football, you have good opponents," said Fowler coach Mark Van Sickle. "They took advantage of our mistakes and we never recovered."
Merino had the first possession and it proceeded to go 74 yards on 14 plays en route to the first score of the game. Andrew Frank took a pitch from Deacon Trenkle and he raced 20 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Frank also scored on the two-point conversion to help the Rams take an 8-0 lead.
The Rams then attempted an onside kick which the Grizzlies mishandled and Merino recovered at the Fowler 24. It took six plays for the Rams to get back into the end zone with Trenkle scoring on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. The two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the Rams had a 14-0 lead with 2:06 left in the first quarter.
Fowler finally had its first possession, but it went three and out. A personal foul penalty after the ensuing punt put the Rams on the Grizzlies side of the field, and Merino increased the score on Trent Elliott's 2-yard run nine plays later. Trenkle scored on the two-point conversion for a 22-0 advantage.
Fowler finally got a potential scoring drive going as it advanced all the way to the Merino 10. However, another personal foul moved the Grizzlies back and they eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Merino also turned the ball over on downs and Fowler looked to get another scoring drive started. The Grizzlies got onto the Rams' side of the field, but a holding penalty moved Fowler back and once again, it turned the ball over on downs.
The Grizzlies had the ball first in the second half and Jackson Bates put them in scoring position with a 43-yard run. Jackson Bates scored on 1-yard run on the next play, but the two-point try was unsuccessful.
The Fowler defense was able to keep the Rams out of the end zone for the entire second half, however, the Grizzlies committed four turnovers in the second half — three interceptions and one lost fumble — and that helped allow Merino to run out the clock.
Fowler accumulated 212 yards of total offense — 168 rushing and 44 passing.
Jackson Bates was the Grizzlies leading rusher with 64 yards on 11 carries, followed by Damian Romero with 63 yards on 11 carries, and Braxton Bates with 32 yards on six carries.
Romero completed five of 10 passes for 44 yards. Rylee Smith was the top receiver with three catches for 22 yards, while Braxton Bates had two receptions for 22 yards.
Merino had 258 total yards with 234 coming in the running game. Trenkle was the Rams' leading rusher with 90 yards on 22 carries, followed by Frank with 69 yards on 19 carries, and Elliott with 68 yards on 17 carries.
Trenkle completed one of three passes for 24 yards. Derrick Alber had Merino's only reception.
Fowler finishes the season with six wins and one loss. The Grizzlies will lose nine seniors to graduation, but Van Sickle is confident that his team will be competitive again next season.
"We lose a lot of seniors, but we have a great group of freshmen who are going to be sophomores," Van Sickle said. "We have great juniors coming back and I'm expecting good leadership and I'm expecting us to pick up where we left off."
MERINO 22, FOWLER 6
Merino 14 8 0 0 — 22
Fowler 0 0 6 0 — 6
M — A. Frank 20 run (A. Frank run), 4:32
M — Trenkle 1 run (run failed), 2:06
M — Elliott 2 run (Trenkle run), 7:54
F — J. Bates 1 run (run failed), 10:24
Tribune-Democrat reporter Ken Hamrick can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.