Friday night flashback
Hoaglund, Bulldogs run wild in return for Ramunno
It was like a flashback to the 1990s for the Palisade Bulldogs.
Coach Joe Ramunno was roaming the sidelines Friday night, and his trusty flexbone offense was ripping an opposing defense to shreds.
The result was a dominating 45-7 win over the Central Warriors in nonconference football at Stocker Stadium.
With senior quarterback Levi Hoaglund pulling the trigger, the Palisade offense blasted huge gains early and often. Hoaglund, playing his first game at quarterback, finished with 250 yards on 15 carries and four touchdowns. Not bad for a converted tight end.
The Bulldogs made quick work of Central with an impressive all-around first half.
Offensively, Hoaglund ran the flexbone to near perfection, including a 73-yard run midway through the second quarter to give Palisade a 16-0 lead.
Hoaglund faked to the fullback, then found running room to the right side, where it was one cut, two cuts, and the 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior was in the open, angling all the way back to the left side of the field and into the end zone.
“He’s a running back playing quarterback, but that’s OK,” Ramunno said with a smile.
Hoaglund, who fumbled a couple of snaps early, admitted he was a little nervous because this was his first time playing quarterback since he was a freshman.
“It’s different than tight end,” he said with a grin. “The offensive line did awesome. Every play I have three options.”
Dalton Hannigan, a 1,000-yard rusher last year, took advantage of outside running lanes and rushed for 107 yards. His nine-yard run for a score gave the Bulldogs a 24-0 lead.
Defensively, Palisade was just as dominating, holding Central without a first down until 3:58 remained in the first half.
Central had its best scoring chance in the first half when Palisade lost a fumble at its own 21-yard line. But the Bulldogs stuffed the Warriors, and Jake Sebesta’s 39-yard field-goal attempt went wide left.
Palisade’s special teams were special as well.
Using a quirky formation that Central had trouble solving after the Bulldogs’ first three touchdowns, Hannigan ran in a pair of two-point conversions, and Trevor Garcia added one.
Junior Cody Latham broke through and blocked a punt to set up a six-yard TD run by Hannigan for a 31-0 halftime lead.
Hannigan and Robert DeSantis had interceptions for Palisade.
Ramunno led the Bulldogs to four straight Class 3A titles from 1994 to 1997, and the key on offense was the multidimensional flexbone option system. He spent 14 years at Colorado Mesa University before returning to Palisade as an assistant coach last year.
Having a first-time quarterback running what can be a high-risk offense was on Ramunno’s mind, but he was comfortable with Hoaglund under center.
“You always have concerns coming in, but he’s a great student-athlete, and the kids really responded to him,” Ramunno said.
Having a big, powerful quarterback is a huge advantage in the flexbone.
“It’s nice because durability is always a factor, and he’s going to get hit,” Ramunno added.
Central had no answers for the multi-option running game. When Hoaglund wasn’t keeping the ball, Hannigan was running free on counters and sweeps. There was no need for a passing game, and Hoaglund’s only two passes of the night hit the turf.
Ramunno said the offense has more tricks than it showed in the game.
“We really kept it very vanilla this week,” he said.
After forcing a three-and-out on the opening drive when Joe Kolbert made a pair of stops, Palisade went on a methodical seven-play, 75-yard drive with Hoaglund scoring from 12 yards out.
To open the second half, Hoaglund broke free up the middle for scoring runs of 45 and 13 yards to push the lead to 45-0.
A 29-yard run by Central quarterback Wyatt McElwain led to a one-yard run by Cheyenne Little-Fawn to get the Warriors on the scoreboard late.
The lost fumble and seven penalties through three quarters were about the only black marks on an otherwise near perfect opening-season game for the Bulldogs.
Palisade will have a short week before it dives into Western Slope League play against Glenwood Springs on Thursday night. Central has an extra day to prepare for its game next Saturday afternoon at Longmont.