Tigers beat Montrose, tighten SWC race
It was a game of big plays, and Grand Junction came up with just few more than Montrose.
The Tigers used a pair of long scoring plays in the second half Thursday night to defeat the previously undefeated Indians 36-33 in a Southwestern Conference football showdown at Stocker Stadium.
The win keeps Grand Junction (6-2, 2-1 SWC) in the hunt for the SWC championship, and Montrose (7-1, 1-1) now must defeat the only remaining conference unbeaten, Durango, next week to stay in the race.
Trailing 26-21 in the third quarter, the Tigers needed a big play, and Austin Lewis was happy to oblige.
The shifty and nifty workhorse running back turned in one of his best runs of the year to score from 45 yards out. After bursting into the secondary, Lewis made one cut to beat the first defender, then broke a tackle, spun away from another and by the time he pin-balled off two others, he was in the end zone, and the Tigers had a 29-26 lead. Lewis also ran in the two-point conversion.
“Our line helped me get through that first section, and I made a couple moves on some guys and got into the end zone,” Lewis said.
In a game full of big plays and offensive fireworks, the Tigers’ defense forced the first punt of the game at the 11:46 mark of the fourth quarter.
Lewis then took a swing pass from quarterback Tyler Heinsma for a 25-yard gain. Then, Lewis broke loose for a 20-yard run. On the next play, Heinsma ran a play-action fake and spotted Jack Parsons on a post pattern. The senior QB lofted a high-arching strike to Parsons, who made a leaping catch over a defender in the end zone to put the Tigers up 36-26 with 10 minutes remaining.
But Class 4A’s top-ranked team wasn’t about to go quietly.
Montrose was moving the ball until Mike Rocha was stripped by Tanner Griffin, who also recovered the fumble, after a 20-yard gain.
The Indians’ defense then forced the Tigers to punt with 3:11 to go.
Montrose took over on its own 35-yard line, and it took only three plays and 27 seconds for them to score.
Quarterback Kameron De-Vincentis hooked up with Irah Wooten for a 39-yard gain.
Then, Nick Foster hauled in a 25-yard reception to set up a two-yard dive by Rocha to cut Grand Junction’s lead to 36-33.
The Tigers held off two late drives by Montrose to secure the win.
Leading 21-20 at the half, Lewis, who finished with 129 yards on 18 carries, said the third quarter was key.
“We came out hard in the second half. We were only up by one point, and we had to come out and make a stop on that first drive,” he said.
Grand Junction recovered a fumble to stop the Indians’ drive after 10 plays. Montrose had three turnovers in the game.
The Indians jumped to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter on a 4-yard run by Wooten and a 15-yard run by Peter Shearer.
Lewis got the Tigers on the board with a 26-yard run in the first.
A 5-yard pass from Heinsma to James Antonucci gave the Tigers their first lead at 14-13.
In what could be described as one of the most bizarre drives of the season, Montrose grabbed the lead back at 20-14 on a 15-yard pass from DeVincentis to Wooten.
The 15-play, 80-yard drive had a little of everything, including a fake punt in which Gavin Brown ran for 9 yards on fourth-and-four, and a spectacular one-handed, juggling catch for 10 yards by Wooten.
There also were three penalties on the drive, including an unsportsmanlike-conduct call on Grand Junction’s Griffin for taunting. The call came after Griffin sacked DeVincentis for a loss of 10 yards.
Griffin more than made up for his mental lapse, forcing two fumbles and recovering one.
The Tigers’ passing game, with Heinsma pulling the trigger, was on target and deadly all night. He completed 13 of 17 passes for 181 yard and two touchdowns.
“We wanted to be more diverse with our offense in the second half of the season,” he said.
The key to the Parsons’ TD was the play-action fake.
“I was reading the safety, and I saw the him come up really strong on the play-action, and Jack made a great play,” Heinsma said.
He threw one interception on a great play by Montrose when Brown tipped the pass and Wooten grabbed the ball to set up the Indians’ second score.
The Indians’ passing game was effective as well. DeVincentis was 6 of 8 for 97 yards and a TD.
Rocha was the Indians’ go-to guy in the running game, carrying the ball 33 times for 149 yards.
Parsons finished with six receptions and 83 yards for the Tigers.