Fourth-quarter scoring helps Palisade pull away from Delta
It still felt like a rivalry game Thursday for the Palisade High School football game. It was still Delta, once a perennial power in the Class 3A Western Slope Conference.
For the first three quarters, the score even reflected a rivalry game, but the Bulldogs pulled away with 20 fourth-quarter points to win 41-17.
“They’ve been very good,” Palisade coach Joe Ramunno said of Delta. “We were fortunate to get a win today. Our kids responded and played well in the second half.”
The Panthers (2-2) dropped to Class 2A this year after winning the past four games against the Bulldogs (4-1), but Palisade struck first at Stocker Stadium.
Quarterback P.D. Riddle opened the scoring with two rushing touchdowns, slashing in from 1 yard out on the Bulldogs’ first drive and lunging in after a 10-yard run for the second score for a 14-0 lead. Palisade’s second drive was set up by an interception by Miguel Quintana.
Delta cut into the deficit early in the second quarter after the Panthers forced a fumble as they pulled Riddle to the turf. Delta started at Palisade’s 26-yard line, but settled for a 29-yard field goal from A.B. Ontiveros.
After that, Palisade extended its third drive on a fake punt. Isaac Maestas took off on the left side of the field on fourth-and-15, diving for the first-down marker and the conversion.
Still, Delta held strong and later Tristan Brown hammered in a 1-yard touchdown 38.4 seconds before halftime.
Riddle had four completions in the first half, matching his single-game season high this year, and the Bulldogs didn’t stop throwing in the second half.
A handful of bubble screens to Prescott Price, routes over the middle to Austin Bernal, and at least two attempts to tight end Daniel McLean on a seam route kept the Bulldogs marching throughout the game.
Palisade went up 21-10 with 6:14 left in the third quarter, capped by Riddle’s 2-yard touchdown run, but Delta threw a counterpunch almost immediately after the score.
Damon Jensen broke off an incredible 64-yard touchdown run, shedding numerous tackles before finally shaking free down the west sideline for the score. The senior, who came into the game as the state’s leading rusher, rushed for 108 yards on 18 carries.
Beau Byers then picked off Riddle on an under-thrown pass, but Delta couldn’t get anything going offensively. Maestas had his second successful fake punt to extend a drive right before the end of the third quarter.
Delta coach Ben Johnson said he felt like his team was in the game through three quarters, but Palisade’s offense kept chugging along.
“Palisade went on a very methodical drive, did a lot of things well, and we didn’t answer,” Johnson said. “We didn’t do things so well after that and it was game over.”
The Bulldogs came up with three more interceptions and worked with shorter fields to close out the game. Quintana and Bernal had two picks each.
“I don’t think we normally would have done that,” Johnson said. “But we were working to get points fast against a very good team that was playing very well.”
Riddle finished with 137 yards rushing and Tanner Pratt, who scored the final TD on a 47-yard run, finished with 109 yards for the Bulldogs.