‘Cats feel the rush: Second-half run game lifts Fruita past Central
Vince Grasso and the Fruita Monument rushing attack came alive in the second half.
Friday night at Stocker Stadium, Grasso rushed for 138 yards on 16 second-half carries in the Wildcats’ 19-14 win over Central.
“We knew if we could get our blocks, we could get it down the field,” Grasso said. “The line was blowing them off the ball and I had a big cut-back lane on most of the runs.”
Grasso, a sophomore, was held to three yards on four carries in the first half. In the second half, Grasso’s first four rushes totaled 43 yards.
“We talked about being able to run the ball coming into the game,” Fruita Monument coach Shawn Marsh said. “We had some chances in the first half but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Each team managed a touchdown in the first half, with Grasso putting Fruita (1-4, 1-0 Southwestern League) ahead 7-0 on a 1-yard run at the end of the first quarter.
Central (1-4, 0-1 SWL) answered, scoring right before halftime on Joe Smith’s 4-yard run. Fruita Monument controlled the third quarter but couldn’t finish its drives.
The Wildcats’ opening drive of the second half was eight plays, but stalled when Martin Zupan was stopped by Conner Williamson on fourth down.
Fruita’s next drive started with Grasso runs of 14, 11 and 12 yards. The Wildcats drove down to the 3-yard line, but a Grasso fumble was recovered by Williamson.
“We didn’t take advantage of all the opportunities,” Marsh said. “We left some points out there but we kept battling.”
Fruita’s defense kept the Wildcats alive when Tyler Daniels intercepted a Taylor Sanchez pass and returned it to the Central 38-yard line.
The turnover was the spark Fruita needed. The Wildcats scored five plays later when quarterback Zach Thorpe ran the ball in from the 5-yard line.
The extra point failed and Fruita held a 13-7 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“It’s tough when you turn over the ball,” Central coach Vern McGee said. “But I have to give credit to Fruita because they ran the ball really well in the second half.”
Fruita appeared to stop Central on its next drive before the Warriors pulled out a trick play.
On third and 13, Sanchez tossed the ball to running back Aaron Wallway, who threw it back across the field to Sanchez for a 24-yard gain.
The play set up a 1-yard scoring run by Sanchez three plays later to give Central a 14-13 lead.
“Fruita kept the ball for quite a bit of the third quarter so it was huge for our kids to come back,” McGee said. “It was big, but we just couldn’t hold it.”
Fruita’s success with the running game opened up its passing attack on the ensuing series.
Thorpe connected on a 26-yard pass to Zupan on the second play of the drive, and four plays later found Zupan again for a 37-yard touchdown pass.
“Our running game completely set that touchdown up,” Marsh said. “But that’s how it works, you try to run the ball to set up your pass.”
Central moved the ball well on its next drive, but Sanchez fumbled on the Fruita 35-yard line.
Fruita drove the ball to the 10, but missed a 27-yard field goal.
Central’s final attempt with two minutes remaining ended with Braden Bair sacking Sanchez at the Wildcats’ 35 with four seconds left.
“Braden had a super game,” Marsh said of the senior linebacker who also blocked a Central field goal in the first half. “He played his butt off and I’m really proud of the game he played.”
Thorpe finished with 127 yards passing and 96 yards rushing.
Zupan was Fruita’s leading receiver with seven catches for 117 yards.
For Central, Wallway had 103 yards rushing on 25 carries and Sanchez finished with 113 yards on 15 carries.