FREDERICK — Niwot’s football team has yet to put together a dazzling game on offense, but the defense continues to impress.
The Cougars put the clamps on Frederick on Friday with a 34-0 victory at Tesone Field in a Class 3A Tri-Valley League game.
“Our defense is one hell of a defense,” senior Aaron Watson said.
In rolling to its first shutout since a 39-0 victory against Denver North on Sept. 4, 2003, Niwot held Frederick to 53 yards in total offense and just two first downs.
The Cougars (4-0 overall, 3-0 in league) forced Frederick (2-2, 1-2) to punt on nine of 11 possessions, but Frederick was very much in the game with five minutes to go in the first half, trailing 8-0.
However, with 19 points in the final 4 minutes, 12 seconds of the half, Niwot put the game away.
Niwot’s Sean Ratliff busted through to block a Sean Weins punt with 5:40 to play in the first half, setting up the Cougar offense on the Frederick 14.
Three players later, Matthew Braman plowed into the end zone from 1 yard out, and a Braman run for the two-point conversion put Niwot ahead 16-0.
Just 93 seconds later, Niwot officially deflated the Warriors, as linebacker Thomas Bauer reached back for a one-handed interception and returned it 35 yards for a Niwot touchdown.
“I was trying to catch it, but I overran it, so I reached back,” he said. “I was lucky to bring it down.”
From there, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Bauer wasn’t going to be stopped.
“Matt Braman threw a great block, and I wanted the end zone,” he said.
The Warriors were juiced at the start of the game, motivated by hosting one of the best teams in Class 3A.
And for much of the first half, the Warrior defense was up to the challenge. But when Bauer scored, the mood changed.
“A big play like that for a good team, that just boosts them,” Frederick’s David Baldwin said.
Said Watson: “After Thomas intercepted that ball, they just lost hope.”
Frederick played pretty well early on, at least on defense.
Watson caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Clint Stapp on Niwot’s opening possession, but Frederick forced the Cougars to punt on their next two possessions and then stripped Watson of the ball on the next drive.
“First quarter, we were feeling really good and feeling real strong, and we thought we could take them,” said Baldwin, a linebacker.
Frederick’s offense couldn’t muster a threat, however, never advancing past the Niwot 38.
With the offense sputtering, the Warrior defense was eventually worn down.
Niwot did what it has done all year on offense by grinding out yards, connecting on a few big plays and taking advantage of the opposition’s mistakes.
The Cougars rushed for 126 yards, but that came on 37 carries (3.4 yards per attempt), as Frederick did a good job eliminating the big running plays.
Where the Cougars stung Frederick was in the air. Stapp completed 10 of 17 passes for 182 yards, including seven of 11 for 114 yards in the first half.
“When they put nine people in the box, it’s real easy to just throw it,” said Watson, who caught four passes for 59 yards.
Stapp found holes in the Frederick secondary throughout the night, completing five passes for 15 yards or more. With Niwot’s defense giving up just seven points a game, that was more than enough.
Now the Cougars head into next week’s showdown with Berthoud (4-0, 3-0) undefeated.
“Last year, we had some problems finishing games, and this year we can finish, and we have great senior leadership that I think is going to carry us a long way,” Bauer said.
NIWOT 34, FREDERICK 0
at Tesone Field
N — Clint Stapp 15 pass to Aaron Watson (Stapp pass to Watson), 7:59.
N — Matthew Braman 1 run (Braman run), 4:12
N — Thomas Bauer 35 interception return (Stapp pass to Watson), 2:39
N — Thomas Tudor 20 field goal, 0:00.
N — Braman 5 run (Tudor kick), 2:45.
Time of Possession
RUSHING — N, Colin Burns 12-55, Jesse Stubbs 10-21, Braman 4-17, Wade Pentz 4-16, Stapp 3-16, Alan Blenkers 3-4, Sean Ratliff 1-(minus 3). F, Tim Fuss 6-11, Jonathan Martinez 5-11, Andy Koldeway 6-6, Sean Weins 11-5, David Baldwin 1-0.
PASSING — N, Stapp 10-17-182-0, Tyler Olsen 0-2-0-0. F, Koldeway 4-10-20-1.
RECEIVING — N, Watson 4-59, Matt Hendrick 2-49, Nathan Dorzweiler 2-46, Bauer 1-19, Robbie Fowler 1-9. F, Weins 2-10, Fuss 1-5, Chris Viger 1-5.