An end zone magnet
Martinez's 3 TDs help Tigers top Central
The juke imitated around the Grand Junction High School locker room wouldn’t have happened it if weren’t for the stiff-arm.
Dion Martinez cut into open space at Stocker Stadium on Friday, stuck a stiff-arm into a defender’s face mask to shake one tackler, and then, as he cruised down the sideline, faced up a Central defender, then dipped to his left, folding the would-be tackler. Touchdown.
The 26-yard run was one of three first-half scores for Martinez, who helped the Tigers end their regular season with a 42-12 win over Central.
And afterward, Tigers quarterback Tyler Heinsma and offensive lineman Kyler Rose stood before a seated Martinez, acting out the juke as though playing charades.
The Tigers (6-3, 2-2 Southwestern Conference) have more than Martinez’s “ankle-breaker” to store as momentum for a likely Class 5A playoff game. They scored all of their points in the first half, taking the opportunity against Central (0-9, 0-3) to practice their passing game.
And Martinez, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior, hid behind one of the state’s biggest offensive lines before slipping through Central’s defense for two touchdown runs and a 55-yard screen pass for a touchdown.
Why should Martinez worry about a defense with that line?
“They probably don’t see me until I break five yards,” Martinez said.
But he wasn’t getting too excited. And running back Austin Lewis, who sustained a concussion in the Tigers’ Oct. 19 loss to Montrose, will return for Grand Junction’s likely playoff game to split carries with Martinez, Tigers coach Robbie Owens said.
“We’re still not playing how we want,” Martinez said. “If we’re going against Columbine, Valor, we’ve still got to keep pushing if we want to make a playoff run.”
Grand Junction starting fullback and defensive end Theron Verna, who missed the majority of the season recovering from a broken fibula, played his first full game. His first carry in more than a month went for 16 yards.
“No pain,” Verna said of the run. “And now it’s playoffs, so whatever happens, happens.”
Central attempted to halt Grand Junction’s offensive train late in the second quarter when linebacker Kyle Evans sacked Heinsma, forcing the Tigers to punt. On Grand Junction’s next possession, Evans was in the backfield for two more sacks, dropping Heinsma for losses of 14 and three yards.
But when a blitz came again on third down and 27, Heinsma dumped the ball off to Martinez, who went 55 yards for a touchdown — again with an open-field shimmy.
“We know Central’s having a tough season, and we wanted to work on the passing game because we know in the later rounds of the playoffs we’re going to have to be able to throw the ball,” Owens said. “It’s good that we came out with a little more energy on offense and defense, so we were able to establish some Tigers football.”
And Tigers football must include the passing game. Heinsma had 108 yards passing but just missed receivers on a few deep routes. Normally, Heinsma has had at least 10 rushes per game. This time, he chucked the ball 22 times.
“We did leave a lot of plays out there, and we need to work on that,” Heinsma said. “It’s important for us to be versatile on offense, and our defense did a great job of giving us a short field.”
And it gave some players in the Tigers’ locker room a juke to relive.