TORRINGTON – The Torrington Blazers held off the Newcastle Dogies on Friday’s homecoming night game 35-22.
The Blazers started strong on defense by forcing a quick three-and-out. Sophomore Bryce Hager got the offense started early with 13 rushing yards on three straight attempts. As Torrington pushed into enemy territory, senior quarterback Beau Bivens turned to the air game on third down to find senior Kieser Wolfe at the 18-yard line. It took five more plays before Bivens connected with fellow senior Cole Parriott for a six-yard touchdown.
The Blazers defense continued to dominate early with another three-and-out but struggled to advance the ball forcing a punt of their own.
With 2:30 to go in the opening quarter senior Chase Miller’s punt bounced off the chest of the Dogies’ returner and into the arms of Torrington senior Deagan Keith on Newcastle’s 35. Bivens followed it up with a 27-yard pass to Keith.
Torrington ended the quarter on fourth down at the two-yard line leading to a QB sneak by Bivens to start the second with a touchdown.
Quarterback Slade Roberson and the Newcastle offense came alive in their third possession starting on their own 18. The Dogies worked the ball up the field with a few runs and a screen pass to get to the ball to the 30 before Roberson aired a pass over single-man coverage into the hands of Tanner Nielsen who crossed the end zone to close Torrington’s lead to one possession.
Torrington head coach Russell Stienmetz said Roberson provided a major challenge for the defense.
“He did escape the pocket at times and got positive yards, or we’d have him wrapped up and he’d escape and get positive yards,” Stienmetz said. “He’s a great competitor he really gets [Newcastle] going.”
The Blazers threatened to score one more time in the half when Hager made a diving catch on the nine-yard line from a long pass by Bivens. Torrington stopped the clock with 21.4 seconds left in the second quarter but penalties erased a chunk of the original gain.
The Blazers were called for an ineligible receiver down field, a false start, and offensive pass interference in three straight plays. From the Dogies 30, Bivens hit Miller on the sideline but was called incomplete. On the last play Bivens launched a pass to Miller in the endzone who dropped the ball with contact from the defender. Despite calls for pass interference by the Torrington coaching staff, the referees signaled the end of the half.
Torrington continued with aggressive offense in the second half after Hager returned the kickoff to their own 42. On third and 10, Bivens found Wolfe at Newcastle’s 37 to extend the drive. Wolfe led the team with 98 receiving yards.
The Blazers turned to the running game in the red zone including a 15-yard run from Bivens, and another QB sneak. Miller’s third extra point put the score at 21-7.
Stienmetz said the passing game was a major part of setting up the four offensive touchdowns.
“We’ll start passing the ball, and if we need to, it opens up our run game,” Stienmetz said.
The teams traded possessions as the rain came down on Wiseman Field. Roberson led the Dogies’ to Torrington’s one-yard line and junior running back Holden McConkey finished off the drive with a touchdown.
As the rain faded at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Torrington’s drive stalled out at Newcastle’s 31. The Dogies took over on their own 20-yard line but a holding call on the first play set them back to first and 33. Roberson was able to work it to third and 14 before being sacked in the backfield. Things got worse for Newcastle with a bobbled snap on fourth and long leading to a tackle on the three-yard line. Bivens rushed for his third touchdown of the night and extended the lead to 28-14 on Miller’s extra point.
Bivens ended the night with 153 passing yards and 32 rushing yards.
As the rain started to pick up again, Torrington put an exclamation point on homecoming night with 3:46 to go as Keith leaped in front of a screen pass from Roberson and ran it back to the end zone.
Despite another touchdown and a two-point conversion by Newcastle, Torrington held onto the 35-22 lead to improve to 5-2 on the season.
Stienmetz’s biggest takeaway from the game was the confidence his team showed on both sides of the ball.
“Confidence is key going into a big conference battle next week,” Stienmetz said. “I’d say that’s one of the big things that we’re gonna take away from this game.”
The Blazers will be on the road to face Wheatland (6-1) on Friday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m.