Tigers rout Northglenn, get rematch with Highlands Ranch
The Grand Junction High School football team flexed its offense prowess.
The Tigers racked up 680 yards of total offense Saturday in a 63-26 drubbing of Northglenn in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs at Stocker Stadium.
“We had a great game plan going in, we just had to come out and execute it,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said. “We knew they had struggled on defense and we could put some points on them.”
The Tigers (9-1) scored on nine of 11 offensive series and didn’t have to punt. The only two drives where Grand Junction didn’t score were because of fumbles in Northglenn territory.
“You have to let it come to you,” Tigers quarterback Sean Rubalcaba said. “The offensive line gave me time to go through my reads and we were all on the same page today.”
Rubalcaba made a big impression in his first home playoff game, completing 11 of 12 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns.
The junior also torched the Norse with his legs, rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
“I was in a groove,” Rubalcaba said. “The O-line did a great job opening holes and giving me time to throw.”
The Tigers’ offense had to wait to get on the field after Northglenn took the opening drive 11 plays for 74 yards.
Norse quarterback Jared Radebaugh capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Downing.
The Norse (6-4) missed the extra point, and the 6-0 lead was the last time Northglenn held the advantage.
Rubalcaba helped Grand Junction respond quickly, scoring on a 23-yard touchdown run. The Tigers increased the lead on their next series when Rubalcaba found Cory DeRush with a 64-yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers a 14-6 lead.
Northglenn scored on its ensuing drive, with Radebaugh finding Jaszen Burbank on a 32-yard touchdown reception.
“We made it a track meet and our defense was on the field too much,” Owens said. “We tried to use our timeouts to give them a rest but it was almost hard to slow the game down.”
The Tigers’ offense continued to steamroll in the second quarter, with Rubalcaba scoring on a 64-yard run to give Grand Junction a 21-12 lead.
The Norse put together a drive on their next series, but on third and seven from the Tigers’ 21-yard line, Tyler Winder intercepted a Radebaugh pass.
The Tigers defensive back returned the interception 50 yards, but a holding call pushed the ball back to the Tigers’ 12.
Winder had a big day, intercepting three passes.
After a short run by Rubalcaba, the quarterback evaded the Norse rush and found DeRush, who broke into the open for an 86-yard touchdown.
After another Norse turnover in Grand Junction territory, Tigers running back Jerreon Dennis scored on an 84-yard run to push the lead to 35-12.
“We’ve got a great backfield and the coaches had a sound game plan,” Grand Junction offensive tackle Cody Cottrell said.
“As an O-line we were clicking all day and making holes and the backs were hitting them hard.”
Dennis finished with 157 yards on 11 carries.
The Tigers scored one more touchdown before the end of the first half with Rubalcaba finding Winder on a 12-yard pass for a 42-18 lead.
Grand Junction fumbled its first two series of the second half, but rounded out its scoring with another touchdown reception by Winder and two Dennis runs.
“This was big,” Rubalcaba said. “It’s big for the Western Slope. Not a lot of teams get to host, so we wanted to do something special.”
The 63 points were the most scored by any Class 5A team in the first round of the playoffs. Grand Junction now faces a rematch with Highlands Ranch. The Falcons handed the Tigers their lone loss of the season, 17-10 in the season opener.
“It’s nice to have a chance for revenge, because it rarely happens in the game of football,” Grand Junction safety Andy Willett said. “Next week is going to be the most exciting game I’ve ever played.”