Palisade’s run game trumps Jags’ passing in top-10 battle

Palisade quarterback Luke McLean dives over the goal line Saturday to score one of his two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 45-35 victory over D’Evelyn at Stocker Stadium. McLean ran for 149 yards.

Two teams. Two different types of offenses.

Scratch that.

Two teams with two completely opposite, yet dominating, offenses.

With Palisade’s run game and D’Evelyn’s passing game, you just knew this game was going to be a shootout between the two early season Class 3A powers Saturday at Stocker Stadium.

In the end, the fourth-ranked Bulldogs topped the seventh-ranked Jaguars 45-35 in a game that lived up to its hype.

“This was a dogfight from beginning to end for both teams,” Palisade head coach John Arledge said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, but in the end, our guys were able to avoid dwelling on things, persevere and control the tempo of the game late.”

The two teams entered Saturday’s game with dominant offenses that were hard to stop. The Bulldogs, as in years past, have built their offense around the running game. The Jaguars move the ball with a pinpoint passing attack.

By game’s end, the Bulldogs racked up 415 rushing yards, led by quarterback Luke McLean’s 149 yards and two touchdowns. Jaguars quarterback Cody Marvel threw for 457 yards and four touchdowns.

“We knew (D’Evelyn) could throw the ball,” Arledge said. “But at the same time, we knew we were the same way with the running game. It turned out to be a great game — 80 points says a lot.

“I really think it was good for us to face a team that throws as much as (D’Evelyn) does. At the end of the day, I think we were just more physically prepared. Our kids have lived in the weight room and I think that hard work paid off for them today.”

The Bulldogs began the scoring spree with 5:39 left in the opening quarter when Ronald Kuntz returned a punt 53 yards nearly untouched for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked and Palisade took a 6-0 lead. It was the first of four scores for Kuntz, who also scored three rushing touchdowns.

On its next offensive series, D’Evelyn began on its own 29-yard line and Marvel engineered a 12-play drive that ended with 9-yard pass to Matt Menard for the score. With the extra point, the Jaguars took a 7-6 lead.

Palisade answered when Kuntz scored on a 13-yard scamper on the final play of the first quarter. Palisade failed on the two-point conversion and took a 12-7 lead.

The back-and-forth battle continued the in the second quarter as the Bulldogs took a 24-21 halftime lead after a 14-play, 81-yard drive that ended with Kuntz scoring on a 9-yard run.

Palisade began the third quarter with one of its 10 penalties and managed only eight yards and was forced to punt.

From there, Marvel and the Jaguars put their passing game on center stage. A 12-play, 84-yard drive resulted in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Marvel to Anthony Porreco for a 28-24 lead.

In that drive, Marvel completed 10 straight passes for 83 yards, which was nearly broken up by McLean, who just missed an interception early in the series.

“That (drive) was tough to watch,” Arledge said. “I guess the good thing was that it slowed the pace of the game, but it really tested our defense and we nearly broke it up with an interception.”

Although McLean dropped what should have been a sure pick, he made up for it on Palisade’s next two drives. He scored on runs of 45 and 15 yards to give the Bulldogs a 38-28 lead. In those two offensive series, McLean rushed for 79 yards.

The Jaguars cut the lead to 38-35 with 11:08 left in the game when Marvel connected with Connor Skelton for a 65-yard strike.

With 7:22 left in the game and Palisade pinned back on its own 7-yard line, the Bulldogs returned to their bread and butter — the running game. Fullback Quinn Zamora battered his way through the Jaguar defense play after play until he scored from 33 yards out, giving the Bulldogs a 45-35 lead and eventual win.

And in the end, Arledge said it was his team’s best attribute that led to the win.

“This is a tough team and toughness is all we have,” he said. “It showed today. We kept playing tough on both sides of the ball and our guys never stopped being tough.”


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