1 vs. 2 adds to rivalry between Bears, Bulldogs

Palisade and Rifle didn’t need anything extra to bring out the best tonight in these unbeaten Class 3A Western Slope Conference football powers.

But the rivalry got an extra boost when defending state champion Silver Creek lost last Friday. That knocked the Raptors from CHSAANow.com’s top ranking in 3A. Guess who moved up to No. 1 and No. 2?

Rifle, last year’s state runner-up, is perched in the top spot as the Bears host the second-ranked Bulldogs at 7 tonight.

If you know anything about football coaches, neither Rifle frontman Damon Wells nor Palisade coach Joe Ramunno care the slightest bit where his own team is ranked. Rankings are subjective. Each team’s 5-0 record is not.

It’s also a safe bet neither cares to be ranked No. 1, or 
No. 2 for that matter, at this point in the season.

“That’s where you have to be careful because it doesn’t mean much,” Ramunno said of state rankings. “It’s the rank at the end of the year that counts.”

Ramunno recalled the first time Palisade earned the No. 1 ranking during his first stint as the Bulldogs’ head coach. It was 1994, the first of four straight years Palisade won the 3A state championship, and the Bulldogs worked their way into the top spot during the regular season.

The stay was short-lived, as Ramunno said, “We got beat by Moffat County that week we went to No. 1. ... After that, we didn’t talk about it much. We talked each day about taking care of that day. It was a good lesson.”

So, neither team will see tonight’s matchup as anything more than the latest in a long string of important games.

“It’s just another game,” Ramunno said, “but it’s a dang important game.”

They run, then run some more

Rifle and Palisade have gotten to this point with balanced and explosive running games. As a team, Rifle averages 11.2 yards per carry. Palisade averages 9.3 yards per rush.

Quarterback Levi Hoaglund leads Palisade with 644 yards rushing, averaging 9.8 yards per carry with a long of 96 yards, and running back Dalton Hannigan has run for 634 yards, averaging 13.2 yards per carry with a long of 57 yards. The duo has combined for 19 of the teams’ 28 rushing touchdowns.

Palisade running back Easton Woods has 163 yards rushing, with 90 coming on one touchdown run, and Cody Latham took one of his six carries this season 65 yards for a score.

Rifle’s running game, which has put the ball in the end zone 31 times, is led by Kellin Leigh’s 545 yards, 15.6 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. He took one carry 89 yards.

Junior Brock Clark has piled up 435 yards, averaging 12.4 yards per carry with a long run of 80 yards. Senior Javier Nunez has 391 yards, averaging 10 yards per rush.

Unlike Palisade, Rifle doesn’t ask its quarterback to run much, as junior Layton Stutsman has carried the ball a mere 15 times.

Rifle throws the ball slightly more than Palisade. Stutsman has completed 18 of 41 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns.

Hoaglund has thrown the ball only 23 times, completing eight passes for 153 yards, but three have gone for scores.

Worse than he remembered

If being in a game that pits No. 1 vs. No. 2 qualifies as a possible distraction for players, it can’t compare with the distraction that is homecoming week.

After Palisade held on to beat Durango 28-21 in the Bulldogs’ homecoming game Saturday, Ramunno said he learned his memory about past homecomings wasn’t as accurate as he had thought going into homecoming week.

“It was hell,” Ramunno said. “I forgot how much crap they do. It was every night.”

JUST give them the playbook

Rifle coaches and players were scouting the Durango-Palisade game, which was played at Palisade High School instead of Stocker Stadium.

The confines of Palisade’s stadium were a little too cozy for Ramunno as he saw Rifle coaches standing on the track that surrounds the field, getting a closer look and hearing much more than they could at most stadiums.

“They were practically in our huddle in the end zone,” Ramunno said. “I can’t get that close.”

But he didn’t fault the Bears, saying he’d get that close, too, if given the opportunity.

Move it, ump, or she’ll move you

Central center fielder Taryn Smith provided one of the funnier softball moments I’ve seen in a long time.

During the third inning of the Warriors’ 7-3 Southwestern League victory Tuesday over Montrose, the left-handed leadoff hitter laced a nice slap hit down the right-field line.

The speedster decided to try for a double, but as she rounded first base, the field umpire was in the base path in front of her, trotting toward second base, so she pushed him from behind to get him to pick up the pace.

Eventually the ump got out of the way, and Smith was safe at second.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Smith said. “I didn’t know whether to run into him or run around him. I decided to run into him, hoping it would be obstruction.

“I was pushing him in his back. (As it was happening) he said, ‘Sorry.’ “

70 sounds much better

Fruita Monument sophomore Troy Dangler saw it coming when he shot a 3-under-par 69 on Tuesday during the second round of the Class 5A boys golf state tournament.

The strong second day allowed Dangler to finish in a tie for seventh place.

Wildcats coach Dave Fox said Dangler told him Monday night, after Dangler shot 6-over 78, that he felt good going into the second round.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’m going low tomorrow,’ ” Fox said.

That’s the confidence a coach likes to hear, but Dangler added, “It could be a 70 or a 90.”

To that, Fox replied, “Let’s go for the 70.”


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