Bulldogs cruise past Steamboat
It makes a difference when you can field a full team.
Not that the Palisade High School football team wasn’t firing on most cylinders without some of its starters.
For the first time this season, the Bulldogs had their full starting lineup on the field Thursday in a crucial Class 3A Western Slope Conference game with Steamboat Springs at Stocker Stadium.
The results showed as Palisade (6-0, 4-0 WSC) scored early and manhandled the fourth-ranked team in the state in a 39-14 victory.
“The No. 1 weapon that Palisade has is they have tough kids and they play hard,” Steamboat Springs coach Aaron Finch said.
The second-ranked team in the state played hard from the outset.
Senior fullback Aaron Wagler, who broke his hand the day after Palisade’s victory over Battle Mountain on Sept. 4, had played defensive end for two weeks (he did have two carries in last week’s victory at Moffat County).
He made up for lost time Thursday. The Bulldogs called Wagler’s number on the first play from scrimmage.
He answered with a 26-yard run.
“That run felt good,” Wagler said after the game. “It made me feel comfortable (and) back in the saddle.”
His big run set up Jake Appling’s 42-yard play-action pass down the middle to tight end Matt Young, who scored with only 25 seconds gone.
Three plays later, Palisade was on the board again when a high snap out of the shotgun went over Steamboat quarterback Austin Hinder’s head. He gathered it up but was tackled in the end zone.
Palisade took advantage of great field position after the free kick and put together a four-play drive, culminating in Wagler’s 41-yard bust off right tackle and into the end zone. With less than four minutes gone, Palisade led 16-0.
That fired up the Bulldog defense, which held the Sailors to just one first down in the first half and minus-15 yards rushing.
Getting Wagler back on offense helped, but getting lineman Caleb Sisneros and defensive back Zach Adair back in the lineup was just as big for the Bulldogs
Adair, out with a right knee injury sustained during the Bulldogs’ season-opening victory over Woodland Park on Aug. 22, returned to limited action last week at Moffat County at defensive back.
“It feels good tonight,” Adair said with a smile, especially after he recovered a fumble midway through the second quarter.
“It should have taken that one to the house,” Adair said.
Travis Fehlman, who has substituted for Adair since the latter was injured, had another stellar game at tailback, rushing for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Wagler’s last fumble was in last year’s game at Steamboat Springs. Although the Bulldogs won 28-10, Wagler remembered that bobble.
“My goal was not to fumble,” he said — “two hands on the ball when I could.”
Palisade coach John Arledge had high praise for his team’s play on both sides of the ball.
“A lot of times our kids played phenomenal, and against a very good team,” Arledge said.
Arledge also lauded his offensive coaches’ game plan, which yielded 412 total yards.
“Matt Borgmann, Chuck Nissen, Pat Steele — I can’t tell you enough about our coaches,” he said.