‘Dogs upset by Mead in quarterfinal
LONGMONT — The quarterfinal struggles that have plagued Palisade High School’s football team were so close to being demolished in spectacular fashion Saturday afternoon.
Playing an upstart in 11th-seeded Mead on its home field in the Class 3A state playoffs, the Bulldogs found themselves down by 17 points to start the fourth quarter. Palisade clawed its way back to retake the lead in the final minutes, only to have Mead immediately respond with its own go-ahead score.
Palisade’s last-ditch rally came up short, however, as the Mavericks came away with a dramatic 44-40 victory to hand the Bulldogs a quarterfinal-round loss for the fourth consecutive season.
“It’s just a huge disappointment right now,” Palisade coach Joe Ramunno said. “It’s something we’ll have to learn from and grow. These guys, this might give them better character as they grow up and do things.”
Mead (9-3) advanced to the 3A semifinals where the Mavericks will host two-time defending champion Pueblo East on Saturday. Mead has won four in a row after withstanding Palisade’s furious comeback.
“We just said we had to go out on the field and lay it all out there,” said Mead senior Brandon Langridge, who had a key sack of Bulldogs quarterback P.D. Riddle on the Bulldogs’ final drive. “We’re not going to give up — we’re not going to leave here with a loss.”
Both of the losses this season for Palisade (10-2) came on the road to 3A Tri-Valley teams, and both were shootouts (the Bulldogs fell at Holy Family 52-48 on Sept. 2).
Palisade led 21-14 early in the second quarter, but Mead scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes to take a 28-21 halftime lead. Both scores were set up by Palisade fumbles, which Mead converted into 14 points on an 11-yard touchdown run by quarterback Riley Glenn and a 28-yard pass from Glenn to Gino Musick.
Palisade got the ball to open the second half, but the team fumbled the ball away for the third time, and Mead increased its advantage to 35-21 on a 5-yard scoring pass from Glenn to Derek Edwards.
Taylor Kamigaki added a 30-yard field goal late in the third quarter to put the Mavericks up by 17.
“We turned the ball over today uncharacteristically, and give them the credit,” Ramunno said. “They got it done against us.”
That’s when the comeback began.
Riddle connected with Austin Bernal on a 26-yard touchdown pass in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Palisade forced a three-and-out possession, and Riddle hit Tanner Pratt on a 3-yard touchdown pass nine plays later. The point-after attempt was blocked, keeping Mead’s lead at 38-34.
“It was there. We had stuff there,” Ramunno said. “They did a good job defending some things, but we were able to open it up and the passing game was there.”
Palisade forced another three-and-out from the Mead offense and, after a pass-interference call negated a Mavericks interception, Riddle found Pratt again for a 15-yard touchdown and a 40-38 lead with 4 minutes, 7 seconds left.
Mead needed only four plays to respond. Glenn hooked up with Ryan Lavanchy for a 56-yard touchdown — Glenn’s third TD pass of the afternoon. The two-point attempt was denied, but the Mavericks still held a 44-40 lead.
The Bulldogs attempted one final rally, driving to the Mead 26-yard line. But a false-start penalty was followed by a Langridge sack.
“It wasn’t just me,” Langridge said. “Everybody was rushing it. I just used everything the coaches taught me to get past my (guy). Everybody else was rushing the quarterback, I was just there for the sack.”
Two plays later, Riddle was intercepted by Evan Hansen, and Mead ran the clock out from there.
“We were facing a couple of things — the clock and getting first downs,” Ramunno said. “We had to make sure we were trying to get first downs. It was a tough loss.”
Riddle finished 11-of-15 passing for 194 yards and four touchdown passes. Pratt rushed for 124 yards on 18 carries and Bernal added 83 yards on nine attempts.
“My heart goes out to these seniors,” Ramunno said. “It’s a great group of guys, and I left them hanging a little bit short.”