Bulldogs bust Commanders’ spirits on first drive and never look back

Before this thing got completely out of control — from about a dozen Kennedy players kneeling injured after plays to Palisade’s defense literally knocking Kennedy out of the back of the Commanders’ end zone — there was the Bulldogs’ opening drive.

More specifically, there was Palisade’s fourth-and-1 from its own 36.

The Bulldogs, which defeated Kennedy 47-7 Saturday, were more than 60 yards away from the end zone and more than 40 minutes still remained in the Class 3A quarterfinal.

Fourth and 1.

Punt?

Or play Palisade football, which means forward is the only option?

“We were not going to give the ball away and play on our heels,” Bulldogs coach John Arledge said. “That wasn’t to our advantage.”

From the coin flip, when the captains of Kennedy and Palisade met at midfield, Palisade’s disadvantage was apparent. Fans could not have missed the sight, unless they were blocked by the Goliaths from Kennedy.

They towered over their Bulldogs counterparts.

“They were big,” fullback Quinn Zamora said, “but we were tough. And that’s all that matters.”

Nothing out of the ordinary.

So Palisade went for it on fourth down.

Zamora up the middle: five yards.

And here they came. Over and over and over. Several plays later,  another fourth down, this time two yards to go. Palisade went for it, and quarterback Luke McLean bulled ahead for three yards.

First down.

A fan from Palisade’s crowded section at Stocker Stadium waved a sign: “We get down in P-town.”

Indeed, they do.

How sapping that first drive must have been for the Kennedy defense. And not physically. That drive, no doubt, was a spirit-buster.

Another fourth down and 1 at the Kennedy 15.

“I want it,” Zamora said when asked what he was thinking. “We need that first down.”

Simple logic. And effective. Zamora ahead for four more.

Two plays later, McLean was in for a 6-yard touchdown.

The drive was seven minutes and 34 seconds of a lawyer’s most effective opening statement. No witnesses needed. This game already belonged to Palisade.

“That set the tone for us that we were coming to play every down, first, second and third down,” McLean said. “After we scored, they knew they weren’t just going to come in and win.”

If there were ever a moment that defined this game, aside from the opening drive, it was after 160-pound Ronald Kuntz intercepted a pass and sprinted into the end zone.

As he returned to the sideline, he extended an open palm to Kennedy’s 285-pound defensive lineman Kody Mansur — not a high-5, but a low-5.

Mansur passed on the 5.

Kuntz said it wasn’t a taunt, but rather a offer of sportsmanship. Throughout, Kuntz could be heard from the sideline telling his opponents who had just tackled him such phrases as: “Great job,” and “Keep it up.”

“That is just how we’re taught,” Kuntz said. “We’re very disciplined and we have a great coaching staff. You can’t fight them in your head, you just listen to what they say.”


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