After being outscored 178-0 in its first three games of the season, the Dolores High School football team began Friday night’s homecoming contest against Monte Vista hoping to get on the scoreboard.
Fortunately for the Bears, those hopes were fulfilled in a big way when junior fullback Levi Fuller raced for a 69-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to soften the sting of his team’s 50-8 loss.
“The score hasn’t been in our favor all week long, but something we did do different this week was to get on the scoreboard,” Dolores head coach Grant Hobbs said. “That was huge, and the kids responded to that. We’re putting in the work and building this culture, and little improvements each week are huge for this team.”
In addition to receiving a boost from Fuller’s score, the Bears drew energy from their ruckus home crowd, a small, but loud pep band, and a group of cheerleaders who ignored cold weather and kept fans engaged throughout the night.
Also providing energy to players and fans was local radio DJ and well-known public address announcer Ray McDonnell, who cracked several jokes, howled at the moon on at least one occasion, and consistently praised players on both sides.
“We were just coming out and trying our hardest,” said Fuller, who expressed thanks to those who made this year’s homecoming special. “We knew that the scoreboard might not turn out the best, but we put our hearts into it, and we still had a good time.”
Although Dolores players appeared to be focused and played their hardest throughout the night, the Bears proved to be no match for the Pirates, who scored five touchdowns in the opening quarter and never looked back.
Among Monte Vista’s many difference makers was senior Tyrese Otero, who intercepted a pass from Dolores quarterback Wyatt Koskie on the game’s first offensive play from scrimmage and then returned his second interception of the game 60 yards for a touchdown later in the quarter.
After Monte Vista senior quarterback Evan Stults raced into the end zone from 54 yards out to give his team a 44-0 lead with 10 minutes to go in the first half, a running clock was instituted and several Pirates starters were removed from the contest.
Trailing 50-0 and struggling to move the ball midway through the fourth quarter, the Bears appeared to be headed to another scoreless night until Fuller took a hand-off and moved a large pile of Monte Vista players down the field before breaking free and racing into the end zone.
As audience members cheered and Dolores players raced down the field to congratulate Fuller, Hobbs and several assistant coaches shouted encouragement. Junior lineman Gabriel Allred raised his arms in celebration as if to signal that a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
“I don’t know, I got the ball and I got hit two or three times,” said Fuller. “Nobody really had a good hold on me, and I just felt a little pop and I was free. I just took off. It was great.”
“Levi (Fuller) came alive today,” Hobbs said. “He begged me for the ball all week in practice, and I said, ‘You need to earn your opportunities and make the best of them. You’ll get the rock if you do that.’ It was a really good feeling for me as a coach to get on the scoreboard.”
Now owners of an offensive touchdown and eager to build on the improvements they have made so far, Bears players will turn its attention to a road matchup against Del Norte on Nov. 7.
“We’re starting to put it together,” Dolores junior Caleb Montoya said. “We don’t have a lot of players, and we’re making the most of it. We’re turning Dolores around, and this is a culture that is going to continue to build for the next few years.”