Seniors rise to occasion for Montrose

Tthe Montrose High School defense stuffs Montbello running back Jerell Nettles in the first quarter of Saturday’s Class 4A playoff game at Montrose.

Montrose High School running back Mike Rocha celebrates his third touchdown late in the fourth quarter Saturday.

MONTROSE — Significant plays by Montrose seniors surfaced like trout during a Gunnison River fly hatch.

Pete Shearer zipped through the middle of the field to catch a pass in stride and never veered off trajectory as he won a sprint to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown reception.

Gavin Brown, so ill he was vomiting at halftime, had enough strength to fight off several tacklers as he made his way around the right end and down the sideline for 18 yards on a fake punt he converted for a first down.

Angelo Youngren, back in uniform for the first time in a month after breaking a collarbone, shook off the rust and carried the ball 32 times for 186 yards.

Then, there was the crowning play, the one that helped make amends for a failed fourth-down attempt on offense and an inability to get the ensuing stop on defense: Defensive end/linebacker Irah Wooten batted down a pass as Montbello attempted to tie the game in the fourth quarter with a two-point conversion.

Montrose then responded with a touchdown drive to salt the game away as the Indians held off the Warriors 31-25 in the first round of the Class 4A football playoffs.

“Our seniors played like we needed them to play,” Montrose coach Todd Casebier said.

Needed was right. Montbello fell behind but was tenacious in its attempt to come back, and afterward Casebier gave the Warriors their due.

“We just knew it was going to come down to that situation. It always does,” Casebier said of the two-point attempt.

The conversion attempt caused some tense moments Montbello created in the final three minutes of the game by driving 50 yards and kicking a field goal to get within a touchdown. The Warriors then tried an onside kick that went out of bounds with 61 seconds left.

“When you get in these games in the playoffs, it’s about who makes a few more plays, that’s the team that’s going to win,” Casebier said. “And we were able to make a couple more plays than they did, and that’s all that matters.”

Montrose appeared to be in control of the game after stopping a long Montbello drive to open the second half. The Warriors got to the Indians’ 11-yard line, but the 16-play, 66-yard drive yielded no points when a 31-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left.

Montrose then drove 80 yards in 15 plays to take a 24-9 lead when Mike Rocha ran for the final three yards and the second of his three touchdowns during a 96-yard rushing day.

The Warriors, however, responded with a quick score, thanks to a 62-yard run by Jerell Nettles, who was stopped one foot shy of the goal line when Youngren caught him from behind. Montbello scored a play later, but it required extra time that the Warriors could have used at the end of the game.

Montrose looked to reclaim the momentum and appeared to have it with a conversion on fourth-and-inches from its own 29. Three plays later, though, the Indians attempted to convert on fourth-and-two, and Youngren’s run up the middle required a measurement that showed he was stopped an inch short.

“That’s what we do,” Casebier said of the fourth-down try. “We’ve got to get it, and if we don’t, we’ve got to get a stop (on defense).

“In the same situation next week, we’ll do it again.”

The Warriors continued to torment the Montrose defense with the short pass to move the chains. Montbello senior quarterback A.J. Thompson, who completed 29 of 40 passes for 268 yards, completed five passes to get the Warriors close enough for Giovanni Torres to run around the left end for a three-yard TD run.

That cut the deficit to 24-22, and the Warriors decided to go for two points and the tie. That’s when Wooten surfaced. Thompson started out under center, dropped back into a shotgun formation, and threw a pass that looked more like a jump shot into the middle of the end zone.

Wooten said he did what he was supposed to do, staying home on defense, and when he saw a receiver slip inside he realized where the pass was going.

“I turned, jumped and hit it,” Wooten said of the pass.

Wooten got involved again on the Indians’ first play of the ensuing possession, grabbing a short pass from Kameron DeVincentis on the left side and taking it 26 yards to the Indians’ 44. Seven plays later, Rocha bulled ahead for two yards for his third TD and a 31-22 lead.

The response was typical Montrose football, Rocha said.

“I wouldn’t say we were worried,” Rocha said of the lead getting cut to two points with six minutes left in the game. “I knew we were going to come back strong because that’s what we do.”

Montbello coach John Trahan tipped his hat to the Indians, saying several times Montrose is a great football team. He added upsetting Montrose was a monumental task, but his Warriors were on the cusp of taking down 4A’s No. 1 seed.

“We made too many errors,” he said. “Championship-caliber football comes down to who makes the plays, and we didn’t make enough of them.”

The Indians   advance to host No. 8 Denver South (9-2), which defeated No. 9 Durango 36-26.


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