Young quarterbacks at Palisade, Central prove they’re ready to play

In his first varsity start, Palisade’s Luke McLean showed that despite his youth, he could play. McLean passed for 79 yards and a touchdown and ran for 30 yards and two touchdowns in Palisade’s win over Central.

In his first varsity start, Central’s Taylor Sanchez showed that despite his youth, he could play. Sanchez provided most of the Warriors’ offense, scoring two touchdown in a loss to the Bulldogs.


Chatfield at Central

Friday, 7 p.m. Stocker Stadium

Radio: 1340-AM (KTMM), 95.1-FM (KKNN)

Last week: Chatfield lost 37-6 to ThunderRidge; Central lost 30-14 to Palisade

Game notes: Central’s loss to Palisade was an eye-opener.

“It’s like we’d forgotten everything we’d learned,” Central coach Vern McGee said. “We knew we’re young and inexperienced, but we have to get better at every position.”

Central’s positive note from the loss was the play of new quarterback Taylor Sanchez. The junior accounted for 208 yards of offense, including 126 yards rushing.

The Warriors need more of the same from Sanchez, but also should get contributions from running backs Aaron Wallway and Joe Smith.

Defensively, Central faces a team that has size up front, but lacks experience at the skill positions.

“Both teams are trying to get better,” McGee said.

Grand Junction at Overland

Friday, 7:30 p.m., Stutler Bowl

Last week: Overland lost to Satellite, Fla., 28-14; Grand Junction lost 17-10 to Highlands Ranch

Game notes: Grand Junction’s biggest advantage Friday night is playing a team that spent last week traveling to Florida to play.

In addition, Overland is adjusting to its first coaching change in nearly 30 years. Longtime coach Tony Manfredi stepped down and former Denver East coach Ron Woolfork took over.

The Trailblazers have a lot of speed and size with 6-foot-3, 240-pound nose guard Julian Flores and 6-4 tight end Barina Yensu-Ackah.

Grand Junction is coming off a disappointing loss to Highlands Ranch. The Tigers controlled the game, but five turnovers resulted in another loss to a Denver school.

Andy Willett rushed for 102 yards on 17 carries and should be involved heavily again this week.

Defensively, the Tigers got after the quarterback last week, recording six sacks. Look for more of the same from Brandon Malloy, Andrew Duff and Casey Walker.

Palisade at D’Evelyn

Saturday, 11:30 a.m., Trailblazer Stadium

Last week: D’Evelyn defeated Conifer 48-17; Palisade defeated Central 30-14

Game notes: This is a big one for the Bulldogs. D’Evelyn is ranked No. 2 in Class 3A in The Denver Post’s Top 10 this week, Palisade is No. 4.

“They are the class of 3A,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “They have great team speed and they scheme well.”

The Jaguars are led by junior quarterback Caleb Flack, who threw for more than 400 yards and six touchdowns last week against Conifer.

“We have to rise up to the challenge of one of the best passers in 3A,” Arledge said. “(Flack) isn’t average, and if we give up a big play, we have to overcome it.”

Arledge said one of the Bulldogs’ best defensives to Flack’s passing attack is Palisade’s offense. The Bulldogs kept the ball away from Central for most of the first half last week by controlling the clock.

Palisade running backs had a big week against Central, with Caden Woods rushing for 102 yards and Quinn Zamora for 70 yards.

Other games to watch

Glenwood Springs at Montrose, 7 p.m. Friday: Fourth-ranked Montrose dominated Piedra Vista, N.M. last week, and will get a much better test from the No. 8 Demons.

Coal Ridge at Rifle, 7 p.m. Friday: Coal Ridge controlled Eagle Valley last week 27-0 and should have a competitive game against neighboring Rifle. This is the first time the teams have played each other on the varsity level.

Cedaredge at Hotchkiss, 7 p.m. Friday: Hotchkiss is one of the best-kept secrets on the Western Slope. The 1A Bulldogs can play, and look to knock off the 2A Bruins.

Quarterbacks are always in the spotlight. That spotlight is even more intense when it’s your first varsity start barking signals.

Luke McLean and Taylor Sanchez learned last week what that first start is all about.

“(A quarterback) has to be tough,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “If he isn’t, his team won’t respect him.”

McLean, a sophomore, led Palisade to a 30-14 win last week over Central and Sanchez, a junior making his first varsity start at quarterback.

McLean completed 6 of 10 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown and ran for 30 yards and two touchdowns.

Arledge thought his green quarterback handled the game about as well as he could have.

“He was confident but he wasn’t cocky, he was sure of himself,” Arledge said. “He made some mistakes, which was something we expected to a degree, but in the pressure situations he was fine and I didn’t see the wide eyes.”

McLean’s easy-going demeanor is something not usually associated with a sophomore quarterback. He isn’t afraid to joke around or be the butt of teammates’ jokes.

The 6-foot, 175-pound quarterback’s teammates and coaches often point out that he’s larger than his brother Zach, who plays on the offensive line.

“Coach (Arledge) likes to say I’m like a guard running the ball,” McLean said. “I’m bigger, so I don’t mind the contact, and I don’t try to run around anyone.”

McLean spent all of last season as the starting quarterback for the freshman team, but it’s a big jump to go from playing on Wednesday afternoons to Friday nights.

McLean said it comes down to confidence.

“You have to have the confidence in yourself that you aren’t going to go out there and fumble the snap every play,” McLean said. “I want to play at my best to give my team the best chance to win.”

Although McLean is still getting adjusted to the game speed on the varsity level, Sanchez has experience on varsity, just not on the offensive side of the ball.

“Taylor has played a lot, he started every game for us on defense last year,” Central coach Vern McGee said. “But even with that, stepping in as a quarterback and the speed of the game there, he would tell you it’s faster.”

Sanchez produced almost 95 percent of the Warriors’ 221 yards of offense against Palisade.

He scored the Warriors’ only two touchdowns on runs of 52 and 44 yards.

“I thought I’d be nervous, but it really wasn’t too much different,” Sanchez said. “Playing as much as I did on defense helped me get prepared.”

Sanchez showed he’s more than able to be an offensive playmaker.

“We tried to get him ready throughout the summer as far as what we expect,” Central offensive coordinator Casey Doss said. “How to run a huddle, how to be a leader, and he was a little rusty and nervous.

“You could tell there were a couple delays getting in and out of the huddle, so we addressed those things and will continue to watch film.”

Both players are trying to get the game to slow down. The defensive players at the varsity level are bigger and faster and don’t make as many mistakes as junior varsity and freshman players.

“Taylor’s a high-energy kid who tries to do too much anyway,” Doss said. “So that’s something we’ve talked to him about, having him slow down and taking what’s being given and not trying to do too much on your own.”

The biggest advantage Sanchez and McLean have is time. Since both are underclassmen, they have a couple of years to improve.

“When I’m a senior, I want to be able to say I did my best and won every game I could,” McLean said.

Sanchez wants to continue to grow as a team leader.

“You have to be an all-around leader,” Sanchez said. “Even though I don’t play as much defense, the defensive guys still look to me, so it’s a privilege to know everyone is looking to you, and you have to come through on that.”


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