Football: Bluedevils fall to University in season opener

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By Sean Kennedy

Fort Lupton’s football season got off to a tough start Sept. 6 as they fell to the University Bulldogs in Greeley, 40-0.

“I didn’t have much to say to the team after the game, they knew what happened,” Bluedevils coach Dustin Duff said. “I let my assistants talk to them for the most part.”

The young Bluedevils team, which starts mainly sophomores and juniors this year, struggled to get going in the first half on offense and struggled to hold back the University attack on the defensive end.

The Fort Lupton offense, which focused almost exclusively on its ground game, showed a bit of its youth early on, earning penalties on three consecutive plays at one point. However, the talent of some of the Bluedevils’ skill-position players shined through amidst the dreary start, with a fake punt and a few long quarterback runs by senior Dalton Mhlanga helping the Bluedevils string together two respectable drives to end the first half, though they did not ultimately turn up any points.

On the other end, University’s balanced attack, led by sophomore quarterback Greg Garza, had the Bluedevils on their heels early, scoring touchdowns on their first three drives and jumping out to a 33-0 halftime lead. The scoring flurry seemed to cause confusion on the sidelines, as Bluedevils coaches could be heard on multiple occasions sorting out why there were only 10 Bluedevil defenders on the field for a given play.

Duff, who credited many of his players for handling offensive and defensive duties all game, said that the defense played like the moment was too big for them early on in the game.

“We just weren’t ready in the first half. Some guys had the ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look. We were missing some linebackers out there, should have had an interception or two. If one or two of those things happen, it might have changed the flow of the game and gotten us some momentum,” Duff said. “It’s a young team. We’ve got sophomores and juniors out there primarily, and it showed.”

The Bluedevils seemed to respond and rise up to the moment in the second half, though it didn’t show up in the box score. What were three-and-outs for the Fort Lupton offense in the first half turned into short but sustained drives in the second half. Dalton Mhlanga seemed to figure out the University defensive line late in the game, stringing together a pair of huge quarterback runs and three penalties on the Bulldog defense to get the Bluedevils to within 6 yards of pay dirt in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Bluedevils were stuffed on 4th-and-1 and were unable to turn their biggest victory of the night into some points.

Still, the Bluedevils slowed the bleeding and nearly equaled University, being outscored only 7-0 in the second half.

Duff sees the improvement as something to build on as the Bluedevils seek a complete-game effort and their first victory of the season.

“We tightened up some things in the second half and executed better,” Duff said. “University is a good team, and I thought we were a good enough team to face them, but it just didn’t happen tonight. We’ll review film and build on it for next week.”