Coach Joe Ramunno optimistic heading into 2015 as Palisade Bulldogs are deep at several positions
Joe Ramunno’s problem with this year’s Palisade High School football team is a problem a lot of coaches in small-school Colorado football wish they had.
“We’ve got a ton of depth right now, but that could easily change as the season goes on,” the Bulldogs’ veteran coach said. “Still, we’re three or four deep in some spots, which really gives us a lot of options.”
That depth, Ramunno said, helps create a competitive atmosphere that feeds into the already more-than-positive attitude of the Bulldogs, who haven’t missed the Class 3A state playoffs in the 21st Century. The last time Palisade missed the postseason was in 1999, two years after the Bulldogs won their fourth consecutive state title during Ramunno’s first stint as the Bulldogs’ head coach (he became the Mesa State College football coach in 1998).
Needless to say, Palisade hopes to keep that 16-year postseason run going.
“I hope that we’re in contention, and I feel like we’ll be in the mix again,” Ramunno said. “I’ll be pretty disappointed if we’re not.”
Along with the Bulldogs’ depth, Ramunno is excited about a team that returns six starters on each side of the ball, but not all of them are going to come back to play the same position as last season. The most notable change will come at quarterback, where junior PD Riddle, who sat out last season with an injury, will enter the 2015 season as the Bulldogs’ starting signal caller. He’ll take over for Arles Hernandez and Matt Sorenson, who each spent time taking snaps last season.
“I just come out and do my best to compete every day,” Riddle said. “So yes, I’m very comfortable with where I am.”
Riddle will be the first player who’ll be able to take advantage of Palisade’s depth with, himself included, five legitimate ballcarriers headed into the season. That’s saying quite a bit about a team that averaged 228 rushing yards per game, which ranked No. 13 among all Class 3A schools, according to MaxPreps.com.
“Last year we had a lot of sophomores and juniors who got a lot of experience, and that really helps us out headed into this year,” senior tight end and linebacker John Goff said. “The year before that (in 2013) we had a lot of seniors, but they obviously couldn’t come back. Now, we’re lucky enough to have all of that experience coming back.”
Ramunno is equally excited about the junior class, noting the 30 players who are in it could all contribute solely on the success they’ve had together in the past.
“They’ve won everywhere they’ve been,” said Ramunno, who is in his 13th season overall and the third season of his second stint as Palisade’s coach. “Those guys have all been paying their dues for a long time. Now that they’re juniors, their time has come to really step in and contribute. And the great thing is that a lot of them played last year, too.”
One of those players who saw a lot of playing time is junior running back Isaac Maestas, whose 10.3 yards per carry is tops among returning players. Hernandez, a senior, finished with 441 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Sorenson will move to wide receiver this season after carrying the ball 80 times for 323 yards last season.
Defensively, the Bulldogs lost their two leading tacklers from last season, Quincy Campbell and Marques Combs, to graduation. Maestas had 77 tackles to lead all returning players. Another junior, free safety Danny McLean, had three interceptions and 44 tackles last season.
Palisade opens the season Sept. 3 against The Classical Academy of Colorado Springs. The Bulldogs will open conference play Sept. 25 when they play Summit in Frisco.