Tigers bounce back from loss with shutout
Grand Junction was looking to respond after a last week’s tough loss to Cherry Creek.
Did the Tigers ever respond.
Grand Junction (2-5, 1-1 Southwestern Conference) routed Durango 37-0 on Friday at Stocker Stadium.
“This was a hard week for us after the Cherry Creek loss,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said.
“We had a couple of heart-to-heart meetings and really worked some stuff out with the kids. They did a great job tonight and really came ready to play.”
Grand Junction has won two straight home games and against the Demons (0-7, 0-2 SWC), played as flawlessly as it has all year.
The Tigers had 353 yards of total offense as the defense shut out the Demons, never allowed them in the red zone and held them to 156 yards of total offense.
“Durango is facing a lot more adversity than we are, so we are lucky to get them at this point in the year,” Owens said. “But the biggest thing is we are trying to get better and the guys are learning to compete every week.”
It was the Tigers’ homecoming and final home game, so it seemed only fitting that one of their seniors had a breakout game.
Grand Junction wide receiver Ashur Verna had 10 catches for 146 yards. Verna became the Tigers’ main threat in the passing game with Tyler Palmer not playing because of a hip injury.
“The first six weeks were really rough, but we came out for homecoming and had our minds right,”
Verna said. “Our offense was clicking and it was a boost of confidence for sure.”
Owens said one reason Verna might have found so much room in the passing game was the Demons’ emphasis on stopping Jayke Brock in the running game.
Brock still got his yards, rushing for 114 yards on 27 carries.
“We were able to move the ball and do some things in the passing game, which might have been
because their defense was putting a lot of guys in the box,” Owens said. “Either way, we were able to methodically move the ball down the field and take some time off the clock.”
Even against Durango defense that was trying to stop him, Brock scored the Tigers’ first touchdown, a 5-yard run. After a poor punt by Durango, the Tigers took over at their own 47-yard line, where quarterback Sean Rubalcaba connected with Verna on a 3rd-and-3 for a 49-yard touchdown. After catching the ball, Verna reversed his field at the 20-yard line and outran the Demons to the end zone.
“It has been a rough year for all the seniors, but Ashur really (played well) this game,” Owens said.
“We were able to get him the ball to make some plays.”
Rubalcaba scored the Tigers’ next two TDs, running in from inside the five-yard line both times, which gave the Tigers a 28-0 halftime lead.
Rubalcaba had his second straight solid home game, throwing for 194 yards on 16-of-20 passing.
“We get to play a lot of games at Stocker, so it is crucial to feel like we have a home-field advantage,” Owens said, “even when we are supposed to be the road team.”
In the second half, Dillon Marshall kicked a 27-yard field goal and freshman fullback Kimani Robinson scored from three yards out.
The Tigers have two conference games left, beginning this week when they take on Central.
“In these last three we still have a lot to play for,” Owens said. “We have time to do some things and the guys are focused on Central.”