Less than 12 hours before kicking off its homecoming game against Ignacio on Oct. 6, the Dolores High School football team received news that senior quarterback Justin Purkat had rolled his ankle during an early morning volleyball game and would not be available to play.
Clearly disappointed by the news, but by no means defeated, the Bears turned to freshman quarterback Jayden Karo, who, along with several teammates, took the field with a no-lose attitude and fire in his eyes.
Thanks to stellar defense from senior Talon Zwicker, two first-half sacks by quarterback Beck Anderson and inspiring words from team-captain Logan Fuller, the Bears hung tough throughout the first half despite turning the ball over three times.
After pulling ahead 7-0 on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Isaiah Jackett to Lawrence Valdez midway through the first quarter, Dolores responded with a touchdown of its own when Zwicker swept around the left side of the line and raced into the end zone from 29 yards out with 7:55 left in the second quarter.
Zwicker’s long run was made possible from a huge block from teammate Forest Pejsa, who decimated a pursuing linebacker with a huge block that drew gasps from the crowd and cheers from teammates, including Purkat, who pumped his fist in appreciation.
After Austin Hackney converted the ensuing two-point conversion to put Dolores ahead 8-7, Ignacio scored its second touchdown of the game when Jackett tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Colton Jackson, who beat Dolores defensive back Bryce Baumgarten down the left sideline.
With the Bears trailing 14-8 midway through the third quarter, Karo produced one of the Bears’ most impressive plays of the season when he rolled to his right and delivered a 37-yard touchdown strike to Josh Corbitt down the sideline.
As the Dolores senior receiver celebrated in the end zone, Karo raced down the field with teammates in tow as the crowd cheered one of its team’s youngest players.
Although the freshman quarterback was unable to run the ball into the end zone on the Bears’ ensuing two-point conversion attempt, the game was tied, 14-14, with 7:40 to go in the third quarter.
The Bears appeared to have the momentum.
A successful onside kick by Dolores further invigorated the crowd, but over the game’s final 19 minutes, the Bears offense stalled.
Ignacio pulled ahead 20-14 after an ill-advised throw by Karo was intercepted by Jackson and returned for a touchdown, and Ignacio’s lead grew to 27-14 when a Karo fumble was again taken back for a score.
Seemingly rattled as the game’s final minutes ticked away, Dolores yielded a safety and a final touchdown in the last half of the fourth quarter, which allowed Ignacio to walk away with a comfortable victory.
Clearly disappointed after the loss, Dolores head coach Chris Trusler rushed his team toward the locker room while expressing appreciation of his team’s effort and emphasizing that players and coaches “had a lot to talk about.”
Now 3-3 overall on the season and 1-1 in the Southern Peaks League, Dolores will look to get back to its winning ways this week with a home game against Monument Valley, Utah, which will take place on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.