COLORADO SPRINGS — On a night where the offense was committing costly mistakes, Pine Creek’s defense came up big.
Xavier Hill scooped up a fumble in the waning minutes of the game and ran it into the end zone to give the Eagles a 14-point lead. The timely turnover and score proved to be the difference maker as Class 4A's No. 3-ranked Pine Creek hung on to beat Pueblo West 21-14.
“Everybody says defense wins championships and defense wins games,” Hill said. “The defense came together. There were 14 points on the scoreboard which was unacceptable, but we had (the offense’s) back.”
The Cyclones (6-1 overall, 1-1 Southern) started the game with a consistent game plan of running as much Pierre Taylor as possible. They converted two fourth downs on their opening drive, but ultimately came away empty handed.
The Eagles (6-1, 2-0) didn’t wait too long to strike as quarterback J.C. Coulter found Cameron Brungardt on a 42-yard touchdown pass to jump on the scoreboard first.
David Moore III ran one in from a yard out to make it 14-0 for Pine Creek before halftime.
And then things got a little funny.
The Cyclones recovered an onside kick to start the second half, but came away empty handed.
On the first offensive play for the Eagles, they fumbled the ball right back to Pueblo West. But the Cyclones came away empty-handed.
On Pine Creek’s second offensive play of the second half, they fumbled the ball right back to the Cyclones.
Who came away empty-handed.
“I thought our defense played well especially in getting all those turnovers in the second quarter and setting up our offense,” Pueblo West coach Monte Pinkerton said. “But Pine Creek has a great defense as well and we knew it was going to be tough sledding.”
The Cyclones eventually struck gold as Connor Farnworth found Nieyme Smeyer-Williams on a 44-yard pass that went for their first touchdown of the game.
And then Pueblo West recovered the onside kick.
Between the turnovers and special teams, the stingy Pine Creek defense was spending more time on the field than they though they needed to.
“I’m not going to lie, it was a little frustrating,” Hill said. “We can’t get down on the offense though. They’re trying their best, sometimes it’s just not working.”
But the momentum couldn’t quite remain intact. The Cyclones got the ball to the Pine Creek seven-yard line, but two false starts backed them up. On fourth down, they opted for a fake field goal, but Farnworth’s pass was intercepted by Daniel Bone.
The Pueblo West defense was doing its part in keeping the Cyclones in the game, but with less than three minutes remaining, John Weary kicked a 68-yard punt down to the Cyclones’ one-yard line.
That set up the Hill touchdown, giving the Eagles some breathing room.
Pueblo West mustered up a two-minute drill and got Taylor into the end zone, but a third onside kick couldn’t be recovered, ending any hopes the visiting sideline had left.
After the team narrowly escaped its first loss to a 4A team, Todd Miller knows his boys have work to do if they want to get back to championship form.
“It’s hard to beat anybody when you turn the ball over six times, if you count the onside kicks,” Miller said. “We have more problems than just the turnovers.”
He’ll look to get some of those problems worked out as the Eagles travel to Air Academy next Friday night.