Defensive lockdown in second half lifts Rye football to first 4-0 start in a decade

Rye Rocky Ford football

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

RYE — The last time that Rye football had started a season 4-0, Conner Pigg was wearing pads and helmet. On Friday night he was wearing a headset and watching his players match that feat from a decade ago.

The Class 1A No. 10 Thunderbolts outlasted Rocky Ford 13-12 in a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate. Mistakes were made on both sides and big plays were made at key moments that can only leave Pigg wondering what this version of Rye football is capable of.

“The sky is the limit,” Pigg said. “The question isn’t how good are we? It’s how far can we go?”

After giving up a touchdown on the Meloneers (0-3 overall) first drive of the game, a 12-yard run from Isiah Garcia, Rye (4-0) got on the board thanks to a 33-yard run from Kreed Rahl. But the Thunderbolts struggled to stop the Meloneers defensively in the first half, even if Rocky Ford couldn’t muster up the points to show for it.

“We knew we had to turn it on,” Rahl said. “This was a better team than we had faced all year.”

And it was going to serve as a vital lesson. It appeared that Rye was going to get out of the first half with a 7-6 lead, but the first place after the defense intercepted Garcia, the Thunderbolts fumbled the ball right back to Rocky Ford, setting up first down in the red zone.

Rye Rocky Ford football

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

Garcia found Jadon Baldonado in the end zone to put Rocky Ford up 12-7 at the half.

“We had to come out confident (after that),” Krahl said. “We couldn’t come out sad or feeling sorry for ourselves.”

Instead they came out motivated.

The Thunderbolts defense forced a punt on the first Rocky Ford possession of the half of played much more precise than the first 24 minutes of the game.

“We didn’t adjust anything, honestly,” Pigg claimed.

They just tackled better. The head coach counted 10 missed tackles in the first half and told his team that it wouldn’t survive the second half with similar numbers. And on top of keeping the Meloneers out of the end zone, Rye had to find its way in.

That’s when quarterback Hayden Polk made some magic happen. On fourth down, it appeared that Polk got swallowed up by the Rocky Ford defensive line, but out of nowhere he broke free and went for a 38-yard touchdown to make it a 13-12 game.

“I don’t know how I broke away,” Polk said. “I just started spinning and praying that I could somehow get out of there. I just got lucky.”

As evidenced by the last 10 years, a 4-0 start takes more than luck. This team is showing to have the right combination of personnel and execution, with maybe a friendly bounce mixed in here and there. But hey know one thing is for certain, if this team is going to make a special run it has to be willing to face tough competition and that trend will continue in two weeks when Florence rolls into town.

“We’ve never been pushed to our limits this year,” Polk said. “Hopefully we can transfer this to Florence because they’ll be our biggest competition yet.”

Rye Rocky Ford football

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)