Fruita tops Monarch in 4A playoffs
LAFAYETTE — The Fruita Monument High School football team has put in plenty of miles on the road this season, traveling as far as Colorado Springs and schools all around the Front Range.
Next stop: Home and Stocker Stadium.
The 10th-seeded Wildcats earned their first home playoff game since 2003 with a 36-28 win against Monarch on Saturday at Centaurus High School in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. It sets the team up for a quarterfinal matchup with No. 2 Chatfield, which beat Central 58-19 on Friday.
“It’s been a long time,” Fruita coach Todd Casebier said. “We’ll be excited. I know that our Fruita fans and faithful will be there and we’ll have to play our best football game, but that’s the way it goes this time of year.”
The win was the fifth in a row for the Wildcats (7-4), who had few complaints as two of the state’s top running teams clashed in the first round. The Wildcats didn’t take the lead until late in the first half but never let up once they had it.
Monarch opened the game with an 80-yard drive that utilized both the Coyotes’ run game while also mixing in a few passes by Stone MacIntyre, the son of University of Colorado football coach Mike MacIntyre. Monarch finished the drive with a 3-yard TD sneak by MacIntyre.
Fruita responded with an 80-yard drive, largely on the legs of Logan Triplett. The drive finished with a 5-yard run by quarterback Zach Rush.
Fruita’s defense came into play on the next drive as the Coyotes worked deep into Wildcats territory, getting to the 13 before the defense forced a fumble that was recovered by Fruita’s Ty Bird. The Wildcats were held to a three-and-out on the ensuing drive but still forced Monarch’s offense to start the next drive in its own territory.
Monarch again used its run game to break through the Wildcats defense on the next drive, scoring on a 10-yard run by Zach Bastres.
Fruita again responded with another score, mixing in screen passes to get up the field. Once Fruita got to the 20, the Wildcats ran a reverse play, getting the ball to Kyle Fineran, who looped around to the left side and carried it in for a 20-yard touchdown. Following an offsides penalty against Monarch on the point-after, Fruita opted to give the ball back to Fineran, who ran it in on the right side to put his team ahead 15-14 with 35 seconds left in the half.
Fruita running back Braeden Graham said the lead gave his team a boost.
“It really picked it up for us and we really knew that we could get us a win,” he said.
The reverse worked again in the opening drive of the second half, when Daniel Van Hoose took the ball around to the right side of the field for a 44-yard touchdown to make it 22-14.
“We’ve got to be diverse on offense because people load the box so much, so our outside plays are our special plays,” Casebier said.
Monarch cut the lead to 22-20 after another 3-yard touchdown run by Bastres on the next drive. Monarch attempted to tie the game with a two-point conversion, but MacIntyre was stopped at the goal line.
After another long drive, Graham scored his first touchdown, busting in from 6 yards for the score, which gave the Wildcats a 29-20 cushion. The Coyotes narrowed the lead to 29-28 on the next drive, which ended on another touchdown by Bastres and his point-after run.
Fruita was held to its second punt on the next drive, giving Monarch the ball at the Coyotes 7. The drive was limited to six plays, ending in a turnover on downs after a failed pass on fourth-and-15. The short field position set up Fruita for a final score by Graham with 1:37 to play.
Graham finished with 121 yards on 22 carries, and Triplett had 123 yards on 26 carries.
Bastres carried the load for Monarch, finishing with 197 yards on 31 carries. MacIntyre had 41 rushing yards on nine carries and also threw for 127 yards.