Clutch ‘Cats: Surprise call lifts Fruita Monument past Montrose
It took a gutsy call for the Fruita Monument High School football team to remain in the Class 5A playoff chase.
Trailing Montrose 24-21 with 6:33 remaining at Stocker Stadium, the Wildcats faced a fourth-and-two at the Indians’ 34-yard line.
Montrose loaded up the line to stop the expected run, but the run never came.
Fruita quarterback Zach Thorpe instead faked a handoff to running back Vince Grasso and lofted a pass to a wide open Colton Whitehead, who scored to lift the Wildcats to a 28-24 victory.
“The running back did a great fake to get Colton wide open,” Thorpe said. “I got jitters when I saw him that open. I got hit as I threw it, so I didn’t see him again until he was in the end zone.”
Whitehead caught the ball at the 15-yard line, then cut back across the field to avoid defenders before crossing the goal line.
Fruita Monument head coach Shawn Marsh said it wasn’t the easiest call to go with.
“You see it and know it’s going to be there, but it’s still a tough call to make,” Marsh said. “Sometimes kids panic when it’s that wide open, but they all did a great job to make it happen.”
Whitehead’s score left the Indians (5-4, 1-2 Southwestern Conference) with two minutes remaining and 80 yards to retake the lead. Indians’ quarterback Drew Casebier marched Montrose to the Wildcats’ 41-yard line, but Tyler Daniels ended the game with an interception with seven seconds left.
Daniels’ interception capped a stout second half performance by the defense, which limited the Indians to only three points.
“Coach (Marsh) challenged us,” Fruita Monument linebacker Trey Thygerson said. “He asked us to go out and stop them, and we did that.”
Roland McLaren’s 2-yard touchdown capped a big first half on the ground for Montrose. The Indians ran for 211 yards, averaging six yards per carry on their way to a 21-14 lead.
“I called them out a little bit,” Marsh said. “I wanted them to be more aggressive and physical and they responded with a great second half.”
Without a couple of big plays from Daniels, the Wildcats’ chances of staying in the game would have been much slimmer.
Daniels scored the first touchdown of the game on a 64-yard reception to take a 7-0 lead.
After Montrose had taken a 14-7 lead on a Bryce Gaber touchdown run and a Casebier to Johnathan Sierra pass, Daniels ran the ball to the 2-yard line on a 51-yard reverse. Martin Zupan scored to tie the game.
Zupan tied the score at 21-21 late in the third quarter on an end-around where he tightroped the sideline for a 21-yard touchdown.
Thorpe led the Wildcats (4-5, 3-1 SWC) with 68 yards rushing and finished 10 of 16 for 154 yards passing. Montrose was led by Gaber’s 86 yards on 16 carries and McLaren’s 76 yards on 16 carries.
The win should have all but guaranteed a spot in the 5A playoffs for the Wildcats. The pairings will be released Sunday.
“This was a big game,” Thorpe said. “Now we know we won’t get the lowest seed and can get a team we can compete with.”