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Big plays still a big problem

By Neil H. Devlin, Mullen Sports Information Director
Mustangs can't stop long strikes again in a 35-14 setback to Arvada West in the 5A Jeffco League; Mullen dips to 2-5 overall, 0-2 in league.
Big plays, particularly in the air, hurt Mullen.

This is a recording.

Seven games into 2021, the Mustangs continue to struggle against long strikes. On Friday night, they lost to Arvada West 35-14 at Brother Bernard Kinneavy Field at De La Salle Stadium.

The loss, Mullen’s second in succession, dropped it to 2-5 overall, 0-2 in the Class 5A Jefferson County League.

Head coach Jeremy Bennett has seen it occur too many times. Over the first six games, the Mustangs had been stung for touchdowns covering an average of 36 yards. On Friday, they gave up a 1-yard TD plunge, but also passing scores of 32, 12, 81 and 53 yards.

“Yeah, again,” Bennett said afterward. “It has to stop.”

A couple of short punts, a lost fumble and allowing prime field position quickly handcuffed Mullen and led to the Wildcats, now 6-1, 2-0, and coming off a rare victory against always good Columbine, a 21-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Other than that, Mullen actually played with the Wildcats, forcing three drives that ended in turning it over on downs, coming up with a considerable improvement on defense and a better exchange across both fronts.

Over the last three quarters, Bennett said, “our defense was pretty stout, we had some sacks and had some good pressure.”

In particular, he cited the play of Hunter Lay, Connor Warren and Jaxon Heil. In addition, junior Kaleb Valdez-Lemos came on early at quarterback for Blake Palladino, who was sidelined with a back injury, and had some moments, leading two scoring drives.

But A-West’s early lead kept Mullen trailing, the Mustangs running game never really got on track and they were guilty of two interceptions. The Wildcats also responded every time Mullen made a move.

The A-West pressure on defense gave Mullen trouble, especially early.

“What (the Wildcats) did was they brought a lot of different stunts from all angles so credit to them, they did a good job,” Bennett said.

Offensively, Valdez Lemos, who started a game at quarterback for the Mustangs as a freshman, connected with Nick Carje and Braeden Keuneke for scoring tosses. And the offensive line picked it up after initial troubles.

But on defense, assorted combinations of inconsistent pressure up front, missed assignments, and getting caught out of position as well as peeking into the backfield, have become regular issues.

“All we can do is keep plugging away,” Bennett said.

Arvada West  21  0  14  --  35

Mullen  0  7  0  7  --  14
First Quarter

AW – Drew Martinez 32 pass from Ethan Cook (Ethan Kerstiens kick), 9:48.

AW – Cade Russell 1 run (Ethan Kerstiens kick), 4:42.

AW – Ean Lee 12 pass from Ethan Cook, (Ethan Kerstiens kick), 3:09.
Second Quarter

M – Nick Carje 17 pass from Kaleb Valdez-Lemos (Bryce Sohayda kick), 2:34.

Third Quarter

AW – Brady Witherspoon 81 pass from Ethan Cook (Ethan Kerstiens kick), 4:51.
Fourth Quarter

M – Braeden Keuneke 31 pass from Kaleb Valdez-Lemos (Bryce Sohayda kick), 8:26.

AW – Brady Witherspoon 53 pass from Ethan Cook (Ethan Kerstiens kick), 7:33.