Fruita upends No. 8 GJ
Just please believe, Fruita Monument High School football coach Sean Mulvey told his players before Friday.
Then on Friday night, as the crosstown rivalry against No. 8-ranked Grand Junction unfolded, and Fruita utilized speed with various running angles and negated its lack of size compared with Grand Junction, believing perhaps became easier. And by the end, the Wildcats players, coaches and fans were a jumping sea of white and blue at Stocker Stadium.
Fruita defeated Grand Junction, 20-14.
“This was our first win against Grand Junction with me being a coach here,” said Mulvey, who is in his second year as head coach, “and I don’t think anybody gave us a chance besides our camp. I told them, ‘Just please believe. Don’t give up.’ “
Fruita found a way as Vince Grasso had 132 yards rushing, Jake Lynch passed for 106 yards, Spencer Fair smacked a 49-yard field goal, and Zach Griggs took a second-quarter kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
The Wildcats (2-4, 1-0 Southwestern Conference) blitzed on defense, ran to the sides of Grand Junction’s massive linemen on offense, and the game plan worked.
“They’re so aggressive up front,” Mulvey said, “we needed to put our guys in some good blocking situations.”
Grand Junction quarterback Tyler Heinsma ran for 142 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers (4-2, 0-1).
But an incomplete pass on fourth-and-3 at the Fruita 33-yard line with three minutes remaining put the ball back in the hands of Fruita. And then Grasso helped run down the clock with runs of five and 19 yards.
“Our freshmen beat them (this year), our JV beat them, and now we beat them,” Grasso said. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”
On its opening drive of the second half, Grand Junction converted on fourth-and-short on Heinsma’s runs of five and 19 yards. But the Tigers could not convert their third fourth down of the drive, as an incomplete pass gave the ball back to Fruita.
Then it was Fruita’s turn to foil on fourth down. Facing a fourth-and-25 from its own 39, Lynch, the right up-back, took the snap and found Zach Griggs across the middle for a 31-yard pass to the Grand Junction eight-yard line. Fruita later took a 20-7 lead on Fair’s 24-yard field goal.
Afterward, Lynch, who completed six of nine passes, had blood splattered on his jersey. Under a pile, Lynch said, an arm caught his nose.
“If someone’s going to make me bleed my own blood,” he said, “we’re going to come out with a win.”
The Fruita believing got a boost from Griggs, who ended the first half by taking a kickoff 92 yards, sprinting by the Fruita sideline for the touchdown.
Fruita also scored on the game’s opening drive, going 80 yards in three minutes, 21 seconds. The drive was highlighted by Grasso’s 56-yard run on a sweep right.
On fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line, Wildcats wide receiver Aidan Woomer scored on a misdirection sweep.
Later in the quarter, the Fruita defense had a turn. After Fair’s 49-yard field goal, Fruita forced Grand Junction to punt when, on third down, Wildcats linebacker C.L. Flowers sacked Heinsma for a four-yard loss.
Fruita nearly scored again early in the second quarter, but two holding penalties inside the Grand Junction 10-yard line pushed the Wildcats back.
One of the penalties negated Zac Twardowski’s diving seven-yard touchdown reception from Lynch. Fair eventually missed a 35-yard field goal.
But Griggs’ kickoff-return touchdown symbolized a classic matchup of speed versus the Grand Junction size, and, as the Tigers celebrated their halftime homecoming ceremonies, the Wildcats ran into their locker room on a high note.
Grand Junction once again was without starting fullback and defensive end Theron Verna, who is recovering from a fractured fibula.
The Tigers’ 6-foot-5, Colorado State University-bound defensive end Austin Berk, despite playing on a sprained ankle, still managed three pass deflections and a sack for a loss of 15 yards in the third quarter.