Dennis’ strong all-around game helps Grand Junction defeat Montrose
Montrose had Grand Junction in a corner Friday night, but the Tigers came out fighting.
The Indians, ranked sixth in Class 4A, made several plays to keep themselves close, but it wasn’t enough against the top-ranked team in Class 5A.
The Tigers prevailed in a 49-21 Southwestern Conference victory at Stocker Stadium in a matchup of the past six conference champions.
Grand Junction’s Jerreon Dennis had 19 carries for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Sean Rubalcaba had 12 carries for 167 yards and two touchdowns and completed 6 of 11 passes for 50 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“They came out and played hard,” Dennis said. “We responded to it. We’re not going to back down. You push us into a corner and we’re going to fight back.”
The Tigers (7-0, 2-0 SWC) limited Montrose to 124 rushing yards. The Indians average 247 rushing yards per game.
Montrose (6-1, 0-1 SWC) made plays with the passing game and the game was tied 14-14 at halftime. Montrose quarterback Drew Casebier completed 8 of 17 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns and caught one pass for 20 yards.
“We’re playing to win,” Montrose coach Todd Casebier said. “We knew we had to take some chances and we did that. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t. Physically, we didn’t match up with them.”
After Grand Junction opened the second half with a eight-play drive to take a 21-14 lead on Dennis’ 3-yard run, the Indians faked a punt in Montrose territory. Marcus Velasquez made the first down by inches, but the drive stalled.
Rubalcaba scored on a 43-yard run for a 28-14 lead with 1:55 left in the third quarter. He scored again on a 75-yard run with one second left in the quarter after the Tigers’ defense forced a three-and-out.
“It’s just how our offense is designed,” Rubalcaba said. “It makes it so a defensive guy’s read can’t be right. It was just my night.”
The Indians didn’t give in, scoring on a 53-yard pass play from Casebier to Blake Alexander to get within two touchdowns, 35-21.
Montrose’s Glenn Fluker recovered an onside kick and the Indians drove into Grand Junction territory with the help of a Angelo Youngren halfback pass to Casebier, who caught the ball near his shoelaces.
Two plays later, Dennis stripped Youngren, giving the ball back to Junction.
“I saw it and I tried to grab it,” Dennis said. “I got lucky and it came out in my hands.
“They had a lot of momentum. It shifted the momentum from them to us and we went down and scored.”
The Tigers converted the turnover into a touchdown for a 42-21 lead.
Dennis scored again on an 85-yard run with 2:30 left.
Grand Junction built a 14-0 lead on its first two drives. Dennis ran for a 39-yard score and Justin Whiting caught a 6-yard pass from Rubalcaba for a touchdown.
The Tigers moved into scoring territory again early in the second quarter, but two penalties backed them up and Montrose took over on downs.
“We’ve been emphasizing we need to play four quarters,” Rubalcaba said. “The last several weeks we come out and throw the first punch. The second quarter we let off the gas a bit, gave them room and momentum into the half. We made great second-half adjustments and got momentum swaying our way.”
The Indians took over the early momentum with Youngren scoring on a 1-yard run.
Montrose’s Cameron Jones intercepted Rubalcaba and then caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Casebier to tie the game with 24 seconds left in the first half.
“At halftime, it wasn’t yelling and screaming,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said. “It was everybody needs to relax and play Tiger football.
“I think I got us out of rhythm being too cute in the second quarter. We came out and did what we do and took it to them.”