Palisade defense saves the day in victory over Durango

Palisade’s Levi Hoaglund runs past Durango’s Caleb Lloyd on a 97-yard touchdown run Saturday in the first half of the Bulldogs’ 28-21 victory. Hoaglund finished with 219 yards rushing.

Durango, minus its starting quarterback and a starting running back because of second-half injuries, remained dangerous in the fourth quarter as it sought a tying touchdown.

And Palisade’s defense, for all of the things it did right Saturday afternoon, just couldn’t seem to help itself when it came to helping Durango. An offside penalty, which appeared to be the Bulldogs’ favorite transgression, on a fourth-down play gave the Demons a fresh set of downs at Palisade’s 47-yard line with about two minutes remaining.

But Bulldogs linebacker Quincy Campbell had seen enough and delivered two big plays that helped Palisade (5-0) hang on for a 28-21 nonconference win in a battle of unbeaten football teams.

Campbell broke up a second-down pass over the middle, nearly intercepting it, then recovered a fumble on the next play after defensive back Easton Woods knocked the ball free from a Durango receiver. Palisade then ran off the remaining 92 seconds.

“He’s had the busiest week in the history of Palisade,” Bulldogs coach Joe Ramunno said of Campbell. “He’s on student council, and he’s had to do all these things (for homecoming) the last two weeks. He needs some rest.”

Campbell credited coaching for being in the right place at the right time on both pass plays.

“I just knew what to do and when to do it,” he said.

He wishes he’d displayed better hands on the second-down pass breakup, though.

“It was an easy one to deflect. I should’ve had the interception, though,” Campbell said, raising his hands over his head and to one side to show how he was out of position when he jumped to make a play on the ball. “I should’ve taken another step back.”

That Durango (4-1) had a chance at the end was a testament to how good it is this year, but Palisade’s defense was mighty charitable.

Defensive penalties aided the Demons on each of their three scoring drives, and the peskiest culprit was the offside penalty, which Palisade got flagged for on four occasions, three in the second half. The one in the first half converted a fourth down for Durango on its drive to tie the game at 14-14.

“We had so many penalties,” Ramunno said. “That’s uncharacteristic of us. ... We can fix that. That’s discipline.”

Durango’s defense, meanwhile, figured out a few things after allowing Palisade to rush for 311 yards in the first half. The Demons limited the Bulldogs to 38 yards on the ground in the second half, and that was the only place Palisade got yards, as quarterback Levi Hoaglund didn’t complete any of his five pass attempts.

What Hoaglund did to was run wild in the first half, gaining 196 yards on 14 carries. After Palisade fielded a kickoff it should have let go out of bounds, the Bulldogs had the ball on their own 6-yard line. A penalty backed them up to the 3. Then Hoaglund swept around left end untouched and won a footrace down the sideline for a 97-yard touchdown run.

The homecoming king added a 5-yard TD run with 20 seconds left in the first half for a 28-14 lead.

Dalton Hannigan ran for the Bulldogs’ other two scores. The first one was a 58-yarder on the first play after Durango lost a fumble. It gave Palisade a 7-0 lead. The second one was a 9-yard run, one play after Hoaglund bolted up the middle for 41 yards, and it put the Bulldogs up 21-14.

First-year Durango coach David Vogt said the difference in the game was execution by the Bulldogs, and the long TD runs by Hoaglund and Hannigan were perfect examples.

“They’re really well-coached,” Vogt said. “They’re so fundamentally sound. One player out of place on defense, and they can go 80 yards.”

The only sustained offense in the second half was generated by the Demons, who marched 48 yards in 11 plays to pull within 28-21 with 3:17 left in the third quarter. The drive came with a cost, though, as running back Tyler Worley, an All-Southwestern Conference selection last season, sustained a knee injury on an 11-yard run.

One series later, Durango quarterback Jeremy Szura left the game with a shoulder injury.

Neither player returned to the game.

“That’s a big loss for us,” Vogt said of the injuries. “But this is a young, resilient team, and we should be able to come back next week with some fire.”

Ramunno was happy to see the Demons leave because they gave his team all it could handle.

“We’re fortunate to come out of this one with a win,” he said.


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