Bulldogs find another solid running back in WSC win
If there’s one thing the Palisade High School football team has, it’s a stable of running backs.
Coach John Arledge went a little deeper to the stable on Saturday.
Ronald Kuntz, whose primary work at running back this season has been with the junior varsity, stepped into a varsity role against Montezuma-Cortez and delivered.
Kuntz rushed 17 times for 129 yards and a touchdown as the Bulldogs routed the Panthers 50-13 at Stocker Stadium.
“I really don’t play much varsity ball at running back,” Kuntz said.
But Arledge and his staff saw something in the 5-foot-8, 152-pound sophomore at practice during the week.
“We thought he’d do well this week,” Arledge said. “He ran with it. He played well.”
Not that Kuntz was Palisade’s only weapon in snapping a two-game Western Slope Conference losing streak.
The Bulldogs scored on their first five possessions — on the ground (Kuntz on a 3-yarder, quarterback Jordan Salazar on a 21-yard bootleg, fullback Terry Williams on a 2-yard dive) and through the air (two touchdown receptions by Kelly Davis).
With losses by a touchdown or less in the previous two weeks to Steamboat Springs and Delta, Palisade (4-4, 4-2 WSC) sought a confidence builder. It got one, rolling to a 34-7 halftime lead.
Neither Cortez touchdown was scored against the defense.
The Panthers’ first score came with 3:23 left in the first half after Miller’s touchdown, when Keenan Garcia returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for the score.
The second came when Cyrus Lobue pounced on a bouncing ball in the end zone after a bad snap on a punt.
Palisade’s defense gave up only 32 yards rushing. The Panthers gained 96 yards through the air on 13 pass completions on 32 attempts.
After the consecutive losses, Arledge said practices last week were a bit more intense. Kuntz agreed.
“We needed to work harder and our scout team needed to push us,” Kuntz said.
Connor Charlesworth had two receptions for 80 yards, 60 of them on a pass from Salazar to the left side with 1:23 remaining in the third quarter for a score.
“When I was going, (the defender) thought Jordan was sacked. He wasn’t and he just made a good pass,” Charlesworth said.
Charlesworth agreed that the atmosphere in practice was a bit different last week.
“We just played with more passion and heart,” he said.
Palisade, usually in position to control its own destiny with two games remaining in the regular season, is hoping for some help.
“We need to beat Glenwood,” Arledge said of Friday’s game at Glenwood Springs.
The Bulldogs could also use some help from Steamboat Springs, if the Sailors can knock off Glenwood on Nov. 6. The two losses by Glenwood would vault the Bulldogs ahead of the Demons in the WSC standings.
That’s provided Palisade can maintain the increased intensity shown at practice over the next couple of weeks.