Palisade RB/DB makes plays all over field in win over Devils
Austin Bernal is the monkey wrench of the Palisade football team.
He fits in just about everywhere and does a little bit of everything.
That was again the case in the Bulldogs’ 35-0 win over Eagle Valley on Thursday at Stocker Stadium.
The senior running back/defensive back scored on runs of 3 and 6 yards, caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Tucker, recovered a fumble and halted a drive with a tackle for a 4-yard loss.
Offensively, Bernal only touched the ball eight times but had 112 yards in total offense.
“So much is just opportunities where it presents itself with this triple option (offense),” Palisade coach Joe Ramunno said. “You have to be a real unselfish guy and Austin has been great with that. He’s a great leader, true character with him.”
Ramunno also mentioned Bernal’s blocking as a big key to the team this season. Bernal said he enjoys that part of the game.
“We had to change up the offense a little earlier in the season and I’m excited about it, he said. “I have to block more and I love to block, and be a team player.”
Ramunno said the team is playing better after a number of close games early, including an overtime win and wins of one and three points.
“We’re such a different team than we were a year ago when we had such a dominating group, but this group is coming together and we’re getting a little bit better,” Ramunno said.
“It’s been a good bonding thing. All those close games early really brought this team together.”
In a game lacking energy at times, Palisade was in control throughout.
Defensively, the Bulldogs stuffed the Devils over and over, holding them to short gains and few first downs.
In the first half, Eagle Valley (0-7, 0-2 Class 3A Western Slope League) had only 76 yards but that included a 22-yard gain on a fumble that was advanced.
Palisade (5-2, 2-0 WSL) scored 14 points in the first quarter, the first touchdown coming on a perfectly thrown 45-yard pass from Tucker to Joseph Alejo, who was wide open in the middle of the field.
The second score came after a highly efficient four-play, 73-yard drive displaying both power and finesse.
The first play was a 28-yard run by Tanner Hicks on a late option pitch from Tucker, who sucked the defense in before making the pitch.
The second play was pure power running by fullback Terrance Williams, who shoved, pushed, pulled and dragged defenders for a 19-yard gain.
Tucker hit Bernal for a 23-yard pass to the 3, then Bernal zipped in on the next play for the score.
Williams, who rushed for 109 yards on 13 carries, broke free for a 35-yard run down to the 2 on the next drive. Tucker then ducked in behind the big fullback and wedged into the end zone on the next play to make the score 21-0.
The Bulldogs pushed the lead to 28-0 at the half on the 30-yard scoring toss from Tucker to Bernal.
Tucker finished with 74 yards rushing and was 4 of 5 for 129 yards passing.
The final scoring drive featured a 31-yard reception by Bernal, who ripped the ball away from a defender, and a 27-yard run by Tucker. Bernal scored from 6 yards out when he made a sharp cut and scampered in untouched for a 35-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Ramunno pulled most of his starters.
Even with his three-touchdown night, Bernal admitted with a smile that he enjoys playing defense a little more.
“Obviously going both ways is really tiring, but I think I like defense a little more because I get to bring out some wrestling moves and take guys to the ground,” said Bernal, who was a wrestling state qualifier for the Bulldogs last year. “Defense is more hard-nosed and I like that.”