Last-second touchdown lifts Fruita past upset-minded Grand Junction

Brett Nankervis throws over a push from DL Javier Tarin of GJ

Grand Junction QB Sean Rubalcaba scrambles out of the rush of Fruita’s A J Meil.

Fruita Monument is a run-first team, but when the Wildcats had to pass, they came up big.

The Wildcats were trailing rival Grand Junction by two points with 1:37 left Friday night at Stocker Stadium. Their mission: Drive the ball 78 yards with only one timeout.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, senior quarterback Brett Nankervis and senior tight end Scott Miller came through in a big way.

On the Wildcats’ final drive, Nankervis was 3 of 6 passing, completing all three passes to Miller, including a 41-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left that gave Fruita an 18-14 win.

“(Scott) was determined and had the strength to make it in,” Nankervis said. “He has a lot of heart and that is why he got in.”

For as spectacular as the final play was, the Tigers did everything in their ability to keep Fruita out of the end zone, forcing a 4th-and-10 on the fateful play. Grand Junction got pressure on Nankervis, but the senior was able to escape and connect with Miller.

“You have to hand it to Fruita,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said. “Nankervis just makes things happen with his feet and for them to score with four seconds on the clock is hard to swallow, but that is football.”

The game began looking like more of the same for the Tigers as Justin Trujillo fumbled the opening kickoff and the Wildcats recovered at the Grand Junction 34-yard line. But the Tigers established early that they were going to be competitive, stopping Fruita after four plays to force a turnover on downs.

Grand Junction responded with a solid eight-play drive, but was haunted again by turnovers as Jayke Brock fumbled.

Fruita put together its finest drive of the game, scoring on a 14-play drive capped by Mike Campbell 2-yard run.

The Tigers fired right back, marching 72 yards and scoring with Brock rumbling for a 22-yard touchdown. Brock had a great day running the ball, leading all rushers with 144 yards on 20 carries.

“We knew we could run going against teams that are more our size,” Owens said. “The offensive line did a great job and we were able to keep them off balance.”

Grand Junction’s offense also showed more of an aerial attack as freshman quarterback Sean Rubalcaba went 8 of 16 for 123 yards and scored the Tigers’ second touchdown on a 20-yard pass to Ashur Verna. Rubalcaba also ran for 85 yards in the game.

“We did a good job but we still turned the ball over and you can’t beat a good team with 4 turnovers,” Owens said. “We finally showed we can play better and obviously we can go from here.”

As for the Wildcats, they went all Nankervis in the second half. Nankervis scored the Wildcats first touchdown in the fourth quarter, running it in from the 2-yard line after fumbling the snap. The Wildcats got away from their traditional option attack as Nankervis carried the ball 15 of 18 times in the second half.

“We made some adjustments and they went well,” Fruita Monument coach Bill Moore said. “We wanted to stay more with the running game but Robbie did a good job of taking it away.”

Fruita Monument won its second straight and its first against Grand Junction since 2002.

“This was our biggest win of the year,” Miller said. “They are a rival and we haven’t beaten them in five years, so it feels great.”

Fruita will have another cross-town game next week when they play Central. Grand Junction will host Skyline.


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