Jolley's defensive dominance in 2nd half lifts 'Cats to win
Kaden Jolley — Fruita Monument High School homecoming royalty and defensive catalyst.
Sure, the junior defensive end was busy in the locker room with his Wildcats football teammates Friday night as the festivities took place on the field, but he emerged in the second half to make a series of plays that changed the game.
Fruita Monument trailed Denver South 9-7 at the break, but the Wildcats, led by Jolley, came roaring back for a 43-15 victory at Stocker Stadium.
“Kaden has been a great player all year and he has some guys around him that help him,” Fruita Monument coach Todd Casebier said. “I thought, for the most part, in the first half, we just made some mistakes that we just can’t make, mostly on offense and special teams. I think once we got going, you saw the kind of team we have, but we have to clean up some stuff. Considering it’s homecoming, defending league champs, it’s a team we know is explosive, we’ll take the win.”
Braeden Graham rumbled in for a touchdown on the Wildcats’ first drive of the second half to take the lead, then fullback Treyton Queen surged in on a 2-point conversion. When the defense came onto the field, an offensive holding penalty backed up the Rebels, then Jolley shot into the backfield for his first sack.
“We just talked about getting back to our fundamentals, blocking correctly, things like that,” Jolley said. “Just the little things that we needed to fix. On defense, we were playing up, so it was just kinda ‘keep doing what you’re doing, keep adjusting, flying to the ball, playing together.’ “
After a short run on second down, Jolley did it again, hitting two Denver South players in the middle of a read-option, knocking the ball into the air and catching it before he was tackled.
Starting at the Rebels’ 15, Graham took a pitch to the goal line, then quarterback Zach Rush wedged between his guard and center for a 1-yard rushing touchdown. Graham added two more points to put Fruita up 23-9.
Jolley then came up big on the ensuing kickoff.
He weaved between blockers, knocked the ball from the hands of the return man, secured the recovery and returned it 14 yards to give the Wildcats great field position. On the next play, Rush found Cameron Kenney for a 12-yard touchdown to get the rout rolling.
Jolley got a couple of fingers on a punt in the second half, too, capping a night full of big plays with another highlight.
Casebier said Fruita’s defense kept the game close as the offense struggled early — the Wildcats fumbled twice and missed a field goal before the break — but Jolley and the defense won the game after halftime.
Up 30-9 in the third quarter, the Wildcats forced another fumble, this time recovered by Cason Gisner, setting up a 21-yard touchdown run for Graham on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Graham added another score less than one minute later, bouncing to the outside and outrunning everyone on a 56-yard run — his fourth TD of the game.
The senior sat out most of the first quarter, but provided a noticeable spark once he entered the game, scoring the team’s first touchdown on a 5-yard run in the second quarter.
Graham finished with 189 yards rushing on 19 carries.
“He got us going,” Casebier said of the running back. “Again, the offensive line made some opportunities for him, but Braeden’s a really good player. We just need him to be consistent and make sure he’s doing the things he needs to do. We’re a different football team when he’s on the field.”
On the defensive side, the Wildcats limited the Rebels to 189 yards of total offense (95 rushing, 94 passing). One of Denver South’s touchdowns came against the second-team defense.
“Other than that first touchdown, which was pretty much on our offense, our defense was great tonight,” Casebier said. “Coach (Andrew) Decker and his guys have done a super job. Our defense is going to have to carry us at times and they did tonight.”