Dominant ‘Dogs: Palisade outplays Central to win east valley game
The Palisade High School football team knew what it had to do Friday night in order to knock off Class 5A Central.
The Bulldogs needed to control the ball offensively, limit the big plays defensively and win the battle on special teams.
Palisade can check off all three after the Bulldogs’ 30-14 win over the Warriors at Stocker Stadium.
“It’s one of those things being the small school in the valley,” Bulldogs assistant coach Matt Borgmann said. “The kids sometimes feel they get treated that way, but they got over it and feel they can hang with anyone.”
Despite being smaller than Central by two classifications, Palisade dominated the season opener for both teams.
The Bulldogs racked up 245 yards on 63 plays. Palisade had 12 first downs.
Defensively, Palisade limited Central to only one first down in the first half and gave up a total of five first downs in the game.
Central’s longest drive came late in the fourth quarter; it lasted nine plays and ended with Palisade’s Andrew Buck sacking Taylor Sanchez.
The Bulldogs clinched the victory by tackling Central running back Aaron Wallway in the end zone for a safety with eight minutes remaining in the game.
“Our kids are gritty, tough and they fight,” Borgmann said. “And we love that.”
Palisade made a difference on special teams on the first play of the game. Ronald Kuntz returned the opening kickoff 69 yards to the Central 21-yard line.
Palisade was unable to capitalize on the good field position, but Central had two consecutive three-and-out drives that resulted in short punts, allowing the Bulldogs to live in the Warriors’ territory the entire first quarter.
Less than two minutes into the first quarter, Palisade converted on a drive that started on Central’s 33 with quarterback Luke McLean scoring from 1 yard out.
Quinn Zamora added the two-point conversion to give the Bulldogs an 8-0 lead.
“We knew the first quarter was key because we had to set the tempo,” Bulldogs center Jeremy Brannon said. “We had to show them who was tougher up front and tougher overall.”
Central coach Vern McGee said the first quarter took its toll on the inexperienced Warriors.
“We spent the whole first quarter inside the 30-yard line,” McGee said. “It’s tough to play defense when you give them the ball on a short field.”
In the second quarter, Central tried to regain momentum by forcing Palisade to start on its own 11. The Bulldogs responded with a 14-play drive that took more than six minutes and ended with Caden Woods scoring on a 4-yard run.
Woods was the Bulldogs’ feature back, finishing with 102 yards on 14 carries.
Woods, a sophomore, credited the push that the offensive line of Brannon, guards Brandon Roland and Preston Bauer and tackles Zach McLean and Trevan Gardner had up front.
“The offensive line blocked really hard and did everything they could,” Woods said. “They were pushing all game.”
Central was able to score before halftime when Sanchez showcased his open-field running ability with a 52-yard touchdown run. The score cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-7 going into halftime.
“That was a great run,” McGee said. “Scoring right before the half got us back into it.”
Sanchez had another long touchdown run in the second half, scoring from 44 yards out. The junior quarterback finished with 126 yards rushing and 82 yards passing.
Mistakes plagued the Warriors all night.
On their first series of the second half, Wallway fumbled inside Central’s own 10-yard line.
McLean connected with Jamr Rhodes five plays later on a 4-yard touchdown pass that gave Palisade a 22-7 lead.
Palisade added another score on its next drive with McLean scoring on a 3-yard fourth-down run.
“What makes it even greater is there are no surprises,” Borgmann said. “Everyone knows what we are going to do, and tonight we still did it.”