ARVADA - With a senior, 2,000-yard rusher and a sophomore quarterback, you’d think Rock Canyon would be content to, well, simply hand the …
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ARVADA - With a senior, 2,000-yard rusher and a sophomore quarterback, you’d think Rock Canyon would be content to, well, simply hand the “rock’’ to Eric Williams.
If that’s your assumption, you’d better rethink it, because Ryan Hommel is no ordinary sophomore quarterback.
In Friday’s second game of the season at the North Area Athletic Complex, Arvada West had an answer for Williams, limiting him to 57 yards on 22 carries. All that accomplished was to open the door for Hommel, who burned the Wildcats with three touchdown passes - two of them a half-minute apart as the Jaguars snapped a 9-9 tie en route to a 23-12 victory.
It’s not unlike last year for Rock Canyon, when senior Chris Sauer complemented Williams’ running with 2,082 yards and 20 touchdowns passing.
“We have (thrown the football) for years,” Hommel said. “We were going to 41 (Williams) last year, and he ran all over everybody.”
Williams rushed for 122 yards in Rock Canyon’s Class 5A debut win a week earlier against Highlands Ranch, but as Jaguars coach Tom Lynch noted, “Everybody’s going to lock on Eric - he’s that good - so we’ve got to throw it.
“(Arvada West) had a great scheme. They locked down Eric and got to us in the first half. They hit Ryan a bunch. We changed protection at halftime.”
Hommel wasn’t happy with his first half - 9 of 20 for 97 yards and a touchdown - and proceeded to hit seven of his first nine passes of the second half before ending the game with two incompletions and two interceptions. He finished 16 of 33 for 264 yards.
The game turned on his third and fourth passes of the half - a 97-yard catch-and-run by Quinn O’Niell on a quick toss over the middle and a 25-yarder to Jackson Watkins in the end zone immediately after Ben Ruh recovered a fumbled Arvada West handoff.
“That was the best feeling in the world, to come out after halftime when I didn’t do very good at all and have our team go out and perform like that and have the defense pick us up,” Hommel said.
“That three-play stretch changed the game,” said Wildcats coach Greg Whisler. “But the kids battled and didn’t let it get them down. Yes, it bothered them, but we got back in gear.”
A-West (0-2) controlled the game in the first half, save for an 80-yard touchdown drive by Rock Canyon. The Wildcats built a 9-0 lead on the first of two Kaleb Whiting field goals and Allen Martin’s 3-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, a score that was aided by a pass interference call on third-and-10.
Rock Canyon answered with an 80-yard drive capped by Hommel’s first touchdown toss, a 5-yarder to Williams, then tied the game with a safety on a high snap into the end zone over Martin’s head.
The second half also was a case of missed opportunities for Arvada West. The Wildcats had first downs at the Rock Canyon 10, 25 and 35 and managed just one field goal, twice losing the ball on downs. They also started a drive at the Jaguars’ 49, only to have Martin throw an interception.
“You’ve got to get those points,” Whisler said. “The defense played inspired and gave us opportunities. We’ve just got to punch that ball in on the offensive side.”
Martin hand a role in 222 of A-West’s 256 yards total offense, rushing 15 times for 116 and going 13-of-32 passing for 106 and two interceptions. But the Wildcats got just 18 yards on 13 carries from top running back Jesse Klene, and couldn’t get the ball often enough in the hands of last year’s quarterback, Marcus Culhane. The junior caught two passes for 37 yards and rushed once for five yards, in addition to returning kicks.
“That was one of our goals, to have (Culhane) get more touches on the outside,” Whisler said. “But we couldn’t run up and make them pack up the middle so we can get the ball to the outside. He played great defense, but, definitely, we’ve got to get him the ball.”
But Whisler sees progress being made, coming off a 1-9 record in 2011.
“We’re getting better. We have to continue to fight. And the defense, they’re flying around. They’re running to the football and making plays for us. And we got some good plays on special teams - pinning them deep on a punt (before the long pass) and not allowing kick returns.
“We have a great staff, a great bunch of kids, and we’ve just got to teach them how to win.”
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