Brown’s big night
Fruita DB's pick-6 lifts Wildcats past Warriors
Before his start Thursday night, Landon Brown had five tackles in limited action for the Fruita Monument High School football team.
Two notable injuries in the Wildcats’ secondary put the junior defensive back in a high-pressure situation against Central’s spread offense.
With less than eight minutes to go and Fruita down 20-14, Brown made his mark on the game, intercepting a pass into the flat and returning it for a touchdown to lift Fruita to a 21-20 victory at Stocker Stadium.
The Wildcats (5-0) had defensive breakdowns early in the game, trailing the Warriors (1-3) by two touchdowns in the first quarter, but Brown’s interception punctuated a late-game turnaround.
“Man, he was running that route all game,” Brown said of the receiver he was covering. “That’s something we’ve worked on in practice and it was a pretty easy read. We were in a nice coverage, good call by our coaches, and I just jumped the ball. It was perfect.”
Central opened the game with two big scores. On the first drive, quarterback Ryan Weller found Trey Ehlers for a 41-yard touchdown. After stopping Fruita on fourth down, the Warriors marched down the field and capped an 11-play, 65-yard drive with a 3-yard option pitch to Joey Estep for a touchdown. Central missed both PAT attempts, however, and led 12-0.
Fruita responded with an 89-yard kick return touchdown by Jacob Burns to get on the board before the end of the first quarter. After a Warriors punt, the Wildcats chewed down most of the clock and Braeden Graham plowed in for a 1-yard touchdown 2 minutes, 29 seconds before halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, Estep surged in for a 2-yard touchdown to put Central up 20-14. Fruita was stopped on fourth down, but Brown came up with the pick-six on the fourth play of the next drive.
Fruita Monument coach Todd Casebier said Brown has taken on a bigger role as Marcus Mosnes recovers from a ruptured spleen. The Wildcats’ secondary was further hindered as quarterback Zach Rush, who also plays cornerback, was held out during the second half with an undisclosed injury.
“Landon is one of those new starters we have in,” Casebier said. “We talked about it at practice, that the new starters have to come in and go make plays. Next man up. Landon had a great week at practice and he’s going to have to play for us the rest of the year, so we’re proud of him.”
Casebier added that Kade McClaskey, who took over kicking duties for Mosnes, made a big impact by drilling all three PATs he attempted.
Despite the loss, it was a huge showing for Central. The Warriors were one play away from defeating the No. 5 team in the Class 4A CHSAANow.com poll and Casebier credited his opponents.
“Central’s kids played extremely hard,” Casebier said. “That’s as hard as I’ve seen a Central team play, in my opinion, in a very long time. I just thought they did a great job getting the buy-in and having their guys ready to go.”
Central coach Shawn Marsh said he was proud of the Warriors’ defense for limiting the top rushing attack in the classification.
“I was tremendously excited about that defense,” Marsh said. “They did a great job, it was fun to watch them, and they played with intensity.”
Fruita’s Braeden Graham had 38 carries for 173 yards and one touchdown. It was a season high in carries for the bell-cow back, but the 4.6 yards-per-carry average is his lowest this season.
Central split time at quarterback, with Weller taking the majority of the snaps and Max Marsh handling the first drives of the second and fourth quarters. Weller was 11 for 15 for 113 yards and a touchdown, and Max Marsh was 4 for 7 with a pick.
Estep, a power running back for the Warriors, had a season-high 64 yards on 11 carries for two touchdowns.
Shawn Marsh said the senior had a great day on both sides of the ball.
“Joey did a great job today,” Marsh said. “He ran the ball well and played great on defense, too. Joey had an overall great game.”