Riddle's timing leads Palisade
P.D. Riddle — master of the late pitch.
The Palisade High School football coaching staff occasionally gets on Riddle about not pitching on option plays, or sometimes pitching too late, when he’s already being pulled down by a defender.
But Bulldogs coach Joe Ramunno said Friday night he trusts his senior quarterback’s decision making, especially when a late pitch by a partially tackled Riddle led to 74-yard touchdown for Isaac Maestas.
Riddle, Maestas and the Bulldogs dominated on the ground and at the line of scrimmage in a 40-14 victory over Fruita Monument in a nonconference game at Stocker Stadium.
Riddle missed the Bulldogs’ victory over Montrose last week because he was ill.
“We’ve been hearing it all week, everybody says ‘ahhhh, he won’t pitch the ball so you don’t have to defend it,’ ” Ramunno said. “But he’ll do it and he’s getting better all the time. We’re just happy to have him back.”
There were several instances of Riddle, with a defender wrapped around his waist, pitching to an outside running back — more often than not Maestas — for a big gain.
Riddle calls it “chemistry.”
Maestas calls it “brotherly love.”
Whatever it is, the two make the Bulldogs’ option game go.
“It’s definitely something we’ve built up to,” Riddle said. “It’s something that I haven’t been so good about in the past and the coaches will get on me about that, telling me to, you know, ‘pitch the ball, pitch the ball, pitch the ball.’ I’m glad we were finally able to be successful with it.”
Maestas credited the Bulldogs’ offensive line. Although Palisade (3-1) was smaller up front than Fruita (1-3), they controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. On offense, that translated into big running gaps.
“There’s no way I’m getting through if that’s not our line,” Maestas said. “And Austin Bernal, right there, blocking for me out of the backfield. We’re good.
“It’s what we preach every day: Own the line of scrimmage. Without that front six, we don’t win that game. I can’t run it, Austin can’t run it, P.D. can’t run it without our line up there.”
Palisade finished with 377 yards rushing, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. Maestas had 10 carries for 133 yards and Riddle carried 15 times for 113 yards.
With 7:05 left in the first quarter, Maestas forced his way in from 5 yards out to open scoring. The Bulldogs stopped the Wildcats inside the red zone on fourth down — one of two fourth-down stops Fruita made — then Palisade marched 93 yards for a score. Tanner Pratt broke off a 30-yard run on the second play of the second quarter to put Palisade up 14-0.
The Wildcats were operating without sophomore quarterback Zach Rush, who Fruita coach Todd Casebier confirmed will miss an estimated six weeks with a broken right leg.
Still, Kyle Fineran, who filled in at quarterback last year after a season-ending injury to Sam Schroeder, keyed the Wildcats’ first extended drive.
Facing fourth down and 13 inside the red zone, Fineran’s 14-yard scramble set up a 1-yard touchdown from Braeden Graham that got Fruita on the board.
Palisade responded with its shortest drive of the night, and Riddle threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Maestas, who tumbled backward into the end zone as he hauled in the pass. A blocked PAT left the Bulldogs up 20-7 at halftime.
Fruita recovered an onside kick to start the second half, but was stopped on fourth down. Palisade, as it had all night, answered immediately, thanks to Riddle.
The quarterback completed a 26-yard pass up the seam to tight end Daniel McLean, then snuck in for a 2-yard TD.
Riddle added another touchdown on the ground, this time from 8 yards, to close out the third quarter. The quarterback hit Maestas on a pitch for a 74-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Maestas ran in untouched.
Logan Triplett added a late touchdown for Fruita to cap scoring.
“Palisade was better in every possible way,” Casebier said. “Until I watch the film, I don’t want to say a whole lot about it, other than, obviously, I’m disappointed. But I want to give Palisade a bunch of credit. From the get-go, they played and coached better than we did and they deserved it more.”