Victory over GJ a thrill for Montrose
MONTROSE — The opening three Grand Junction turnovers Friday weren’t just about the Tigers dropping fumble exchanges on its first two possessions, or Montrose recovering a squib kick — onside-like in nature — that bounced off a Grand Junction player’s back.
Host Montrose still had to do something with the ball.
And so it drove.
The Indians jumped to a 20-0 first quarter lead before holding off Grand Junction for a 41-21 Southwestern Conference victory.
Montrose (5-3, 2-0 SWC) needs only to win at Durango next week and defeat winless Central on Nov. 2 to capture the SWC title.
Grand Junction (5-3, 1-2), meanwhile, hosts Central next week.
Montrose’s Angelo Youngren rushed for 153 yards on 28 carries, including a 65-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play.
The Indians were excited about a number of things:
■ When Grand Junction quarterback Tyler Heinsma and running back Austin Lewis fumbled on an exchange on the Tigers’ opening drive. Grayson Burris ended Grand Junction’s lengthy drive by returning the fumble 85 yards for a touchdown.
■ When a squib kick unintentionally lined off the back of a Grand Junction player’s back later in the first quarter and was recovered by Youngren.
■ When Heinsma and Lewis once again fumbled on a handoff exchange.
The second two turnovers led to a Mike Rocha three-yard touchdown run and a Peter Schearer 28-yard touchdown run to put Montrose ahead 20-0.
But what is Montrose really excited about?
“The thing we’re excited about right now is our freshman team has won seven straight and beat everyone in the league,” Montrose coach Todd Casebier said. “Our J.V. has won five straight, and our varsity just beat Fruita and Junction back-to-back.”
So, he said, Montrose football is here to stay.
“Everyone’s thinking down in Junction ... it’s all about Fruita and Junction,” Casebier said. “We’re here, and we’ve been here. We took second in the league last year. It’s like everyone ignores us, and we’re gonna be playing football for a while.”
The excitement also stemmed from Montrose overcoming a rash of injuries, most notably early in the season to Travis Hauger, who Casebier said tore every ligament in a knee and was the Indians’ best lineman on both sides of the ball.
On Friday, he was in a wheelchair on the sideline, and after the game, he occasionally was mobbed by giddy teammates.
Somehow, Montrose’s undersized offensive line managed to hang with the bigger Junction linemen. But sometimes, the Grand Junction offensive line manhandled the Indians’ defensive line, like in the third quarter when Heinsma found a yardage-gobbling niche, keeping the ball for five gains of more than 10 yards. Junction cut the Montrose lead to 34-21 late in the third on Heinsma’s eight-yard touchdown run.
But early in the fourth, it was technique time for Montrose’s offensive linemen, those underclassmen who were undersized and depleted in depth, but not in tenacity. Facing a second-and-13 at the Tigers’ 35, Shearer ran a misdirection play to the left side for 35 yards. Next play: Quarterback Drew Casebier swept around right tackle for a 25-yard touchdown run, and Montrose led 41-21.
Exciting stuff if you’re Montrose.
“It was just us getting off the ball,” said Montrose guard David Schroeter, who had the assignment of blocking the Tigers’ University of Wyoming-bound James Diamanti.
“Our whole thing here is G.O.,” Todd Casebier said, “which stands for, ‘get off,’ which means get off the ball. It’s something I’ve done since the Palisade days, and our backs run behind them.”
Unfortunately for Grand Junction, starting running back Austin Lewis left the game in the second half with a concussion after rushing for 65 yards.
Also for Grand Junction, Tigers running back Dion Martinez had 97 yards on the ground, and Heinsma rushed for 157.
Drew Casebier passed for 157 yards for Montrose, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Brennan Woodruff.