Blue-collar Bulldogs

Showboating not an option in tough-minded WSC

The Western Slope Conference plays a no-nonsense, hard-nosed brand of football, one reason coaches believe the conference is successful in the Class 3A playoffs every season. Saturday, Palisade High School, which practiced Thanksgiving morning, takes on Silver Creek in the semifinals in Longmont.

What shows up on the film — from a Front Range school — wouldn’t happen here.

Palisade High School football coach John Arledge has seen it: dancing, prancing, visors and earrings, towels hanging like rags and visors projecting something like a Miami attitude.

He smirks. Shakes his head.

“Some of the stuff I see on TV,” Arledge said. “Never going to happen.”

Wouldn’t happen on Palisade’s practice field. Or much in the Class 3A Western Slope Conference, for that matter.

What is it that makes the WSC’s teams perennially successful? They know deadlines. They’re often born into discipline. That combination seems to play out well in the state playoffs.

This season, Rifle won the 3A Western Slope Conference, followed by Battle Mountain and, yes, Palisade — third place in its conference and top four in state heading into their semifinal against Silver Creek 1 p.m. Saturday at Everly Montgomery Stadium in Longmont.

Echoes of pounding flesh and crumbling egos reached the Front Range last weekend. Palisade pummeled an opponent in a state quarterfinal. By 39 points. From the opening drive in which Palisade converted three fourth downs, Kennedy didn’t stand a trout’s chance in a bear’s muzzle.

“I think it would be naïve and short-sighted to pretend like it was no big deal,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “I think I’ve been to the playoffs long enough to know anytime you win a playoff game by 40 points is pretty surprising.”

Rifle has been in the playoffs 13 consecutive seasons. Palisade’s track record is proven. Coaches of such teams don’t have to convince players they will be rewarded for driving a shoulder pad into a thigh.

“Often times you get kids to play tough,” Wells said. “It’s inherent trust.”

To Palisade, tough doesn’t include yapping during the game.

“I’m just old that way,” Arledge said. “When you score, give the football back to the ref. You don’t have to act like you’re big-timing it. You learn how to win with grace and win with humility and lose with dignity.”

Arledge watches the antics on the tube and something disconnects. People just don’t know this is the way men are made. Western Slope tough.

“It would be foolish to say I know all sides of John,” Wells said. “I definitely consider him a friend, but I never spent Christmas morning with him or anything like that. But I know he loves his kids. And his kids know that.”

Toughness, love, tough love — it’s a Western Slope Conference thing.

“There’s a sense of physicality,” Arledge said. “I think Rifle kids and our kids are very similar. Their parents are blue-collar, dad’s in construction or oil rigs or whatever. ...

“They live the physical life. They work hard for a living and see their parents doing it. So football is like, fun. They don’t wince at it. Just, ‘Cool, man. Let’s go do it.’ “



SATURDAY: 1 p.m., Everly Montgomery Stadium, Longmont RADIO: 1340-AM (KTMM)


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