WINDSOR — Blake Bunday came as close as he could to being the hero in the Windsor Wizards’ 17-16 loss to the Wheat Ridge Farmers in a Class 4A nonconference season opener at H.J. Dudley Field in Windsor on Friday night.
With the No. 5 Farmers trying to increase a 17-10 lead in the fourth quarter on a 46-yard field goal attempt by C.J. Francis, Bunday, a junior linebacker for the Wizards, stormed into the backfield and blocked the kick, scooped the ball off the turf and sprinted 62 yards for the touchdown with 2 minutes, 35 seconds left in the game.
“We set up the play right in the huddle actually. Our defensive coach is a very wise guy,” Bunday said. “I just got fortunate enough to be able to scoop and score.”
The Wizards went for the two-point conversion and quarterback Joe Sanger’s rollout pass didn’t connect with Drew Gallagher as the Farmers (1-0, 0-0), ranked No. 5 in the Denver Post media/coaches football poll, held on to beat the No. 8 Wizards (0-1, 0-0).
Losing the season opener by one point isn’t what the Wizards spent hours in the weight room for during the offseason. But the Wizards, who won the Class 3A state championship last season and moved up to 4A this year, proved they can play with anyone in the 4A classification.
The Wizards played without defensive standouts Sean Glenn (10.5 sacks last year) and Lucas Watts (7.5 sacks), both with knee and wrist injuries, respectively, as well as starting linebacker Alex Weis (knee). On offense, Sanger (20 carries for 79 yards and a 40-yard touchdown) was without the services of running back Jordan Porterfield and fullback Wil Dressor (foot). That’s almost 1,450 yards and 16 touchdowns of real estate not dressed from last year. The Wizards did get a boost from senior wingback Caden Duve, who rushed for 59 yards on seven carries.
But after Sanger scored on his touchdown run on the Wizards’ very first offensive play of the season to go ahead 7-0, the Farmers came right back and scored on a 62-yard pass from QB Ryan Gurtin to Tyler Kubusta to tie the score. The Farmers and Wizards traded field goals in the second half to knot the score at 10-10, but the Farmers’ Tanner Weakland (10 carries for 82 yards) powered his way to a 15-yard touchdown with 4:23 left in the game to put the Farmers up 17-10.
The Wizards fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, but held the Farmers on a three-and-out saving the blocked field goal heroics to the 5-foot-11, 155-pound Bunday, who played for the Wizards last year after moving from Packerland in Green Bay. Wis.
“I was trying to pick it up as fast as I could trying to get to the end zone without getting touched, and trying to help our team win,” said Bunday, who scored his first career varsity touchdown. “We took a chance on going for two because when you’re at home you go for the win. We came up short and we’ll come back next week.”
Bunday said the Wizards showed they belonged in 4A, especially with so many starters out in a sloppy game that had 19 penalties for 180 yards.
“Our kids had the chance to step up. We had two sophomores linebackers (Joe Shermock and Andy Ackerson) in there at times, and people just stepped up and showed what they wanted to do. I think we belong in 4A. It’s something new. We’re growing as a school and getting new kids.”
Wizards head coach Chris Jones wasn’t making any excuses about how many starters were out against the Farmers, a perennial 4A powerhouse.
“We’ve got to make the plays,” Jones said. “We made the decision to go for two. We’ve got to look at this and put the pieces together. I thought defense played lights out. Those young kids put their hearts on the line.”
WHEAT RIDGE 17, WINDSOR 16
WRHS 7 0 3 7 — 17
WHS 7 0 0 9 — 16
WHS — Joe Sanger 40 run (Ryan Romero kick)
WRHS — Tyler Kubusta 62 pass from Ryan Gurtin (C.J. Francis kick)
WRHS — Francis 36 field goal
WHS — Romero 35 field goal
WRHS — Tanner Weakland 15 run (Francis kick)
WHS — Blake Bunday 62 blocked field goal return (pass failed)
First downs 8 9
Rushes-yards 42-133 40-158
Passing 113 73
Comp-Att-Int 5-7-0 4-6-0
Punts 3-35.3 3-38.7
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 4-2
Penalties-Yds 9-90 10-90
RUSHING: WRHS — Tanner Weakland 10-82 (TD), Jordan Jones 9-21, Dominic Rael 9-18, Avery Mason 3-11, Willie Harris 1-2, Ryan Gurtin 10-(minus 1). WHS — Joe Sanger 20-79 (TD), Caden Duve 7-59, Skyler King 5-21, Cody Johnson 2-7, Devin Ferris 6-(minus 8).
PASSING: WRHS — Gurtin 5-for-7 for 113 yards (1 TD, 0 INT). WHS — Sanger 4-for-6 for 73 yards (0 TD, 0 INT).
RECEIVING: WRHS — Tyler Kubusta 2-84 (TD), Christian Ortega 2-16, Rael 1-13. WHS — Alex Baldwin 2-64, Ferris 2-9.