A pack of Gunnison Bulldogs try to pull down an Eagle ball carrier when American leadership Academy visited Gunnison on Friday, Sept. 29.

 

Gunnison Bulldogs fail to bring down ALA Eagles for homecoming

By John Hales

Staff writer

Oct. 6, 2017

 

GUNNISON—For a little more than half a game last week, it looked like the Gunnison Bulldogs really had a chance to win their first game of the season.

It would have been a good time to do it, too, it being the school’s homecoming game on Friday, Sept. 29.

But, as it happened, the Bulldogs ended up losing to the American Leadership Academy Eagles 38-13, a score that perhaps doesn’t accurately reflect the grit the Bullldogs played with—at least in the first half, that is, until a bad case of getting too much in their own heads may have been a big factor in eventually bringing them down.

Good things happened almost immediately for the Bulldogs, courtesy their defensive unit, which held up despite a steady march of Eagles down the field on ALA’s first possession.

The Eagles got to a fourth-and-six situation at the Gunnison 21, and decided to go for it. Gunnison stopped them cold, though, igniting a momentum that carried for most of the first half, despite the inability to translate it to more than one touchdown.

ALA returned defense for defense, sacking quarterback Kris Edwards on a third down to force a three-and-out punt, which was blocked and recovered by ALA for very good field position.

Three plays later, again on a fourth-down go-for-it attempt with 14 yards to go, ALA converted not for a first down, but for a touchdown.

The following Bulldog possession displayed some of the best of the team’s offense, especially considering where it started from. Wide receiver Mike Hanen was more than adequate through the game in showing how he earned his nickname, “mittens.” His feet, however were not nearly so sure, when he slipped on a kickoff return to give the Bulldogs a starting position on their own three-yard line.

Under Edwards’ leadership (and thanks in part to a passing-interference penalty on ALA), the Bulldogs set themselves at the 50. Two consecutive big runs by Randy Moldanato set things in motion for a 27-yard touchdown reception by Hansen.

On the other side of the ball, on the very next possession, Edwards broke up a long ALA pass that would most assuredly have gone in for a touchdown had the receiver made the play.

The Bulldogs got the ball back on a punt, but were unable to do much with it, and ended up punting themselves.

That’s when ALA made the play that arguably was their breakout. On the first play of that position, the Eagle quarterback threw long for a touchdown to put the score 12-7.

The Bulldogs had trouble on their next drive. Hansen ran the kickoff back to the Bulldog 35, and then fellow wide receiver made his own big play to take the ball to the Eagle 35. But then Edwards slipped and fell on a quarterback keeper for a loss, and that was followed immediately by an interception.

That’s when Edwards began to be visibly upset with himself.

The frustration carried through the Eagles’ next possession, even with a couple of big goal-line stops by Bulldog defenders Thomas Yardley and Isaiah O’Neal (whose tackle-for-loss of four yards may have been the difference in a missed Eagle field goal).

The Bulldogs, however, had already been affected mentally. A touchdown-blowing incomplete pass was not dealt with well by the intended receiver, who through his helmet down in frustration, thus earning an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty that put the Bulldogs out of scoring range, and drained much of the team’s remaining momentum out of them, despite a Hansen interception on the first play of ALA’s next drive to get the ball back to Gunnison.

That was with one minute left in the half.

ALA got the ball back, however, and with only 2.4 seconds left, scored to go ahead by 12.

The Bulldogs, even with a halftime rest and pep-talk, never did quite get back on track (though there were yet some good plays to be made), as ALA went on to score 19 more points in the second half, to Gunnison’s 6.