Toughness matters: Palisade’s Salazar, Townsend may be small, but they pack a wallop

Big hitters in small packages: Palisade linebackers J.T. Townsend, left, and Daniel Salazar, right, aren’t the biggest guys on the field, but they still deliver big hits. Both Townsend and Salazar were slated to be defensive backs before lack of depth allowed them to move.


Roaring Fork at Palisade

Friday, 7 p.m., Stocker Stadium

Radio: 95.1-FM (KKNN)

Last week: Palisade defeated D’Evelyn 36-29; Roaring Fork defeated Battle Mountain 42-20.

Game notes: Both teams ran the ball well in last week’s games. The Bulldogs rushed for 248 yards against the No. 2 ranked team in Class 3A. Roaring Fork running back Zach Browning ran for 257 in the victory over Battle Mountain.

“We’re doing well,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “We’re healthy. Our offensive line and defensive line are doing good.

“Roaring Fork is a big team for being a smaller school. They are a real physical team. They are well-coached and know what they’re doing.”

Expect a physical game. Time of possession could be a key stat in who survives this smash-mouth style game.

Fruita Monument at Glenwood Springs

Friday, 7 p.m., Glenwood Springs

Radio: 1340-AM (KTMM)

Last week: Fruita Monument was idle; Glenwood Springs lost to Montrose 6-0.

Game notes: Fruita Monument had the week off to tune up after a disappointing 55-14 loss to Cherokee Trail in week two. Against the Cougars, the Wildcats struggled in some fundamental areas, and Fruita Monument coach Shawn Marsh said the team spent the week off putting in the work to fix any mistakes.

“We had a physical week with a lot of blocking and tackling,” Marsh said. “We know our mission and we are continuing to work on it.”

The Wildcats face a Glenwood Springs team that lost to Montrose in the final minute last week.

Marsh attended the game and said he’s impressed with the Demons.

“Glenwood is well-coached and has a tenacious defense,” Marsh said. “Offensively, they don’t turn the ball over.”

The Demons’ defense is led by 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker Nick Ciani.

Grand Junction at Standley Lake

Friday, 4 p.m., North Area Athletic Complex

Radio: None

Last week: Grand Junction beat Overland 39-7; Standley Lake lost to Longmont 37-8.

Game notes: The Tigers are coming off of a big Class 5A win over Overland and need to keep the momentum going against the 4A Gators.

Grand Junction plays the early game of the day with Longmont at Wheat Ridge scheduled for 7:30 at NAAC. Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said it can be tough to play the early game.

“I think there is a different mentality that goes into playing a game at 4 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.,” Owens said. “We are going to try to follow the same schedule we did last week, just move everything up by three hours.”

One change to Grand Junction’s approach is the Tigers will be without running back Andy Willett, who injured a kneecap against Overland. Junior Jerreon Dennis will receive a bulk of the carries.

“Jerreon is a different style of runner,“Owens said. “He’s big and physical, and he’ll get a lot of carries.”

The Gators are led by fullback Connor Burgwald and running back Troy Owen.

Central at Fort Collins

Saturday, 11 a.m., French Field

Radio: none

Last week: Central lost to Chatfield 35-14; Fort Collins defeated Douglas County 9-2.

Game notes: Central plays a Fort Collins team that runs a similar offense and defense as the Warriors’ opponent last week, Chatfield.

“For us, it’s nice to have teams running similar things,” Central coach Vern McGee said.

The Lambkins (2-0) won a defensive slugfest last week.

“Fort Collins moved the ball well, but would stall out,” McGee said. “They are big up front both sides of the ball.”

The Warriors need to limit mistakes that have cost them a chance to win this season.

“We got better, but the turnovers really hurt again,” McGee said. “Field position on those were huge. We keep putting ourselves in bad position. We’re doing the little things to not be good team. We’re not tackling like we want to tackle. We’re not staying with blocks long enough.”

This is the Warriors’ first game against Fort Collins in more than five years. The Lambkins are scheduled to play Central next year at Stocker Stadium.

Other games to watch

Hotchkiss at Aspen, 7 p.m. Friday: Class 2A and 1A Western Slope Conference contenders square off. The Skiers are ranked third in 2A and Hotchkiss is sixth in 1A.

Rifle at Olathe, 7 p.m. Friday: With conference play around the corner, both teams need to bounce back after tough losses last week.

Basalt at Paonia, 7 p.m. Friday: The Longhorns defeated Paonia by one point last season and two points in 2008.

Daniel Salazar and J.T. Townsend know opposing football players look at them and smirk.

The Palisade High School juniors realize they are smaller than most linebackers.

Their coach, John Arledge, playfully calls them ‘midgets.’

“They are small, tiny guys,” Arledge said. “They run extremely fast and are extremely physical. They are absolutely unselfish kids and are tough mentally. If Daniel was 6-3, 220, (the University of) Texas would be calling me today. No one works harder than them.”

The teasing and quizzical looks are OK with them. The 5-foot-7, 140-pound Salazar and the 5-8, 150-pound Townsend aren’t afraid. They love the opportunity to prove they can hit.

“You can tell whenever someone looks at you,” Salazar said. “Until you actually hit them, they have a different perspective. It’s kind of fun, too. You get to knock them on their butt and it makes you feel twice as good.”

Salazar, who plays inside linebacker, and Townsend, an outside linebacker, were slated to be defensive backs this season.

A lack of linebackers combined with the duos toughness led the coaching staff to move them to linebacker.

Now, Salazar and Townsend are among the team leaders in tackles.

“We didn’t have very many linebackers,” assistant coach Matt Borgmann said. “We’re trying to find somebody who will do what we ask of them. Those two are tough. They are tougher than snot. Size doesn’t mean anything to them.

“Linebacker is about toughness and technique. Linebacker is not always about size. We are not the biggest team. We have to have kids like that.”

Salazar moved to linebacker this year after playing quarterback and free safety on the junior varsity last season.

“I got put in there a couple plays during camp and have been there ever since,” Salazar said. “I was kind of surprised. I like it. I never thought I’d be a linebacker.

“I don’t like being in open space. I like being in all the commotion. I like being in the middle of everything.”

Townsend played linebacker last year after the coaches tried him out at safety.

“They wanted me to play free safety or corner, but they moved me up because I was always stepping (forward) instead of going backwards,” Townsend said. “I like it. It doesn’t matter my size. I’ve got to make plays.

“It’s better for me. I’m not a very good player in open space.”

To Arledge, playing linebacker is more about character than size.

“It’s all about being tough,” he said. “They get that through their family growing up. If you met their fathers, you’d know they are tough. They’ve worked hard and are absolutely physical. Size means nothing. They’ve earned the right to play.”


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