Running backs drive offense for Fruita and Montrose
The Southwestern Conference no longer has a clear front-runner. In the preseason, it was Grand Junction. Now, the best bet might be Fruita Monument.
Or is it Montrose?
Friday’s Fruita Monument (3-4, 2-0 SWC) vs. Montrose (3-3, 0-0) matchup at 7 p.m. at Stocker Stadium not only could bump one of the teams into the league lead, it’s a matchup of two of the area’s top running backs.
Fruita Monument senior Vince Grasso, at 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, has 783 yards rushing, or 112 yards per game.
Montrose junior Angelo Youngren, 5-10, 182 pounds, has 1,024 yards rushing, or 171 yards per contest.
“Angelo has been our biggest weapon,” Montrose coach Todd Casebier said. “And our defense has been doing a great job against the run, but we know Fruita is multidimensional.”
Montrose is coming off a much-needed bye week. Already, the Indians lost 6-foot-3, 245-pound offensive and defensive lineman Travis Hauger for the season when, against then-No. 1 Monarch, Hauger suffered a knee injury, “tearing every single ligament in his knee,” Casebier said.
Casebier said Hauger is Montrose’s best lineman on both sides of the ball. The Indians also are without starting guard and linebacker Conner Huskey, who is out for the season with a broken foot. Outside linebacker and punter Marcus Velasquez has been playing the entire season with a torn labrum, Casebier said.
Recently, Montrose lost 28-12 to Monarch (now No. 4) and lost 20-19 to Pueblo West (now No. 6).
“Our kids have been battling our schedule. I’d put our schedule next to anybody in 4A,” Casebier said.
And now the Indians have Fruita, which surprised Casebier with its upset of Class 5A’s then-No. 8 Grand Junction.
The Wildcats’ Zach Griggs, who returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown against the Tigers and starts a wide receiver, kick returner and safety, will be questionable with a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Chris Gershon, another starting wide receiver, will be back after missing the Wildcats’ 33-10 win over Central last week to attend his sister’s wedding in Mexico, Fruita coach Sean Mulvey said.
And Jake Lynch has emerged as perhaps the conference’s most prolific quarterback, completing 54 of 99 passes for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns with five interceptions. And some of his best drives have come late in games. Also, in his previous two games — wins over Grand Junction and Central — Lynch passed for 140 and 223 yards, respectively.
“We knew coming in he was a gamer, and there’s no quit in him,” Mulvey said. “And he’s a leader and kids look up to him, and he’s done everything we’ve asked him.”
Palisade, Rifle Part Ways, For now
There are many ways to look at No. 4 Palisade’s 31-3 loss last week to No. 1 Rifle. Bulldogs quarterback Luke McLean takes the optimistic look.
First of all, he hopes to meet the Bears again in the playoffs.
“I know I do, and I’m sure my team does,” McLean said. “Anytime that you lose to a team, you want to see them again. As a competitor you should want to. It’ll help having played them already.”
Palisade (5-1, 3-1 3A Western Slope Conference) plays at Steamboat Springs (3-3, 2-3) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“The focus is on being disciplined and doing what we have to do,” McLean said.
No. 1 Rifle (6-0, 5-0) hosts No. 6 Conifer (5-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Bears running back Ryan Moeller has rushed for 259.7 yards per game and has 1,558 yards on the ground through six games. He ranks 21st nationally in total rushing yards for all classifications.
WELCOME BYE FOR JUNCTION
Grand Junction (5-2, 1-1 SWC), ranked No. 14 in Class 5A after being unranked last week, hopes to return starting defensive end and fullback Theron Verna and tight end/defensive end Austin Berk in two weeks for their Oct. 19 matchup at Montrose.
Verna is recovering from a broken fibula and Berk from a torn ulnar collateral ligament (elbow).
“Getting those guys back will be huge for us,” Tigers coach Robbie Owens said.
In the Tigers’ 49-10 route of Durango last week, Grand Junction wide receiver Kaleb Johnson had three carries, each resulting in a touchdown. Each time, Johnson lined up in a running back-type position and ran a misdirection play.
“As a coach you’ve got to figure out one to three ways to get some of your playmakers an extra touch,” Owens said. “Whether on a kickoff return, punt return or throwing the ball offensively. We tried to line (Johnson) up in a situation where we get him the ball.”
CENTRAL LOOKS FOR FIRST WIN
Central (0-6, 0-1 SWC), despite battling numerous injuries this season, is hoping to get a win on the board when the Warriors host Durango at 1 p.m. Saturday at Stocker Stadium.
Central’s defense has been sturdy against the run, holding No. 15 Dakota Ridge to 152 yards and Fruita running back Vince Grasso to 56. McGee hopes that holds true against Durango (2-4, 0-1 SWC).
“Durango’s probably thinking the same thing we’re thinking,” McGee said. “We think we have a chance, and they think they have a chance.”
Central strong safety and outside linebacker Colton Miller could play after missing Central’s loss to Fruita with a sprained ankle.