LONGMONT — In December 2004, as the Niwot football team prepared to play Rifle in the Class 3A state semifinals, it hoped its next home game would be against Sterling.
Of course, the Cougars didn’t plan on having to wait nine months for that game.
Instead of playing Sterling in the 2004 state title game — Rifle spoiled that
with an upset of Niwot, and then beat Sterling in the final — the Cougars settled for hosting the Tigers in the 2005 home opener on Friday night.
“Just few months too late,” Niwot coach Ron Tesone said.
The result was just what Niwot wanted, though. Led by a stellar defense, the Cougars rolled to an 18-0 victory at Everly-Montgomery Field.
“It was big,” Tesone said. “We’re where we want to be right now.”
Niwot (2-0 overall, 1-0 in the 3A Tri-Valley League) didn’t do anything special on offense but rode its defense to the win.
The Cougars forced five turnovers, sacked Sterling quarterbacks three times, blocked a punt, held the Tigers without a first down on seven of nine possessions and limited them to 78 yards in total offense.
“We came out very tenacious,” said cornerback Nathan Dorzweiler, who intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble. “I was surprised. I thought they’d put some points on us.”
Sterling never really came close to doing that. Both times the Tigers ventured into Niwot territory, Dorzweiler came up with an interception.
“I guess I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.
Dorzweiler began the game by returning a Sterling punt 26 yards to the Niwot 43. On the next play, receiver Nick Saraceni threw a 38-yard pass to Chris Wetzel to set up a Thomas Tudor 42-yard field goal.
Just 88 seconds later, the Cougars forced a Sterling fumble, and Dorzweiler pounced on the ball at the Tiger 28. Four plays later, on fourth-and-1, Cody Buck scored on a 19-yard run. He then added the two-point conversion for an 11-0 lead.
“I wanted him to get the first down, and he took it in,” Tesone said.
The defense came up big again early in the second quarter, when Saraceni blocked a Sterling punt, setting up the offense on the 8.
A couple penalties pushed the Cougars back, but quarterback Tyler Olsen found Dorzweiler in the corner of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown and an 18-0 lead.
“We came out this week in practice going hard (on defense),” defensive tackle La’Mar West said. “We were just going for it and seeing what they were doing.”
West spent half his night in the Sterling backfield, finishing with two sacks and several tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. Ben Packard also had a sack.
The Cougars weren’t pleased with allowing 25 points to Mountain View in a 26-25 overtime win in Week 1, and they aimed to do something about.
“We were working on our technique all week,” West said.
It worked, because Sterling had trouble running and throwing the ball.
West was the driving force up front, while Buck and Dorzweiler made plays in the secondary. The Tigers had their only completed pass in the fourth quarter, and it went for 4 yards.
“We had a great game plan with (defensive coordinator Tom Kajiwara),” Dorzweiler said. “We thought they were going to throw more, but our defensive line was exceptional.”
The offense sputtered, with just 192 yards and seven first downs, but Tesone gave credit to Sterling’s defense.
“There’s a long way to go, but for a Week 2 game, they were a tough opponent,” Tesone said. “We always play each other tough, and we’re fortunate to come out with a win.”
It didn’t come on a cold December day with a trophy on the line, but the Cougars will relish the win over Sterling anyway.
“We did what we needed to do,” West said.