Indians not big on grdeon, but still a physical team

PHOTO BY DANIELLE STOMBERG—Montrose’s Justin Harrington is just out of reach of a pass from Nathan Robertson during Saturday’s playoff game against Niwat high school.

Montrose isn’t the most physically intimidating team on the football field.

Although the Indians have talented athletes, they could be considered undersized for a 10-1 team that has won 10 straight games.

For example, look at the Indians’ first-round playoff game against Niwot last Saturday.

The Cougars were a pass-first team with receiving options Howie Rubsam (6-foot-5), Veric Nichols (6-3), Lukas Diesing (6-2) and Matt Perry (6-0) attacking the Montrose defense.

It worked early on for Niwot, which racked up two first-quarter touchdowns and more than 100 yards through the air, but as the game wore on, the Indians didn’t wear down. They got stronger.

“Every team we have played has been bigger than us,” Montrose coach Todd Casebier said. “So we don’t put a lot of stock in it. We feel like we can compete with our 200-pounders against everyone else’s 240-pounders, or in Niwot’s case, 270-pounders, if we get off the ball.”

Montrose began stuffing the run and pressuring quarterback Cody Lahman, who was sacked three times in the second half and threw two interceptions in the game.

“Our coaches tell us to be physical,” Montrose linebacker Taylor Neill said. “We are never going to be the biggest team. That is why we strive to be the most physical.”

Neill is part of a Montrose linebacking crew that includes Brian Rumbaugh and Jordan Passehl on the inside and Nathan Robertson, the team’s starting quarterback, on the outside. Rumbaugh has been a force in the middle that has been a big part in stopping the run game.

“Brian Rumbaugh has been outstanding,” Casebier said. “He is the best player in the league defensively.”

Robertson on the other hand, does a little bit of everything. He can rush the quarterback and is also adept at dropping back in covering, which he showed against the Cougars, intercepting two passes.

“Our defense seems like they have helped us out a lot,” Robertson said. “Every time we don’t finish a drive (offensively) they seemed to get a turnover, or a fumble or something like that.”

But what makes the Montrose defense unique is that it has been a collective effort for the Indians, holding opponents to an average of 9.5 points per game this season.

Up front, a talented defensive line of Brandon Franklin, Clancey Garoutte, Taylor Reed, Johnny Aranas and Chris Smith has been able to stop the run and also apply pressure on the quarterback.

“Our defense has carried us,” Casebier said. “We feel like our defense can keep us in games as long as we don’t make mistakes.”

Neill said anything each player achieves is credited to the whole team.

“It goes both ways,” Neill said. “I know when I get a pick or pressure the quarterback, you can count both the linemen and the secondary for it.”

The secondary has been very good as well. The Indians run both a man-to-man coverage scheme as well as zone. Holding it all together is safety Mac Alexander.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior plays more like a linebacker with ability to deliver a big hit when needed.

Alexander had two crushing blows against the Cougars, sending two Niwot receivers to the sidelines.

Alexander, like Neill, credits his big plays to the whole defense.

“Our defensive line has been great all year long and they definitely did a great job against Niwot,” Alexander said. “They kept (Lahman) in the pocket and that helps the defensive backs a lot. So a lot of those hits were because of the defensive line.”

The Indians will have to apply the same type of defensive pressure this week against a difficult Greeley West team that took care of Littleton last week 27-14.

The Spartans won the Northern Conference, with their only loss to Class 5A Legacy, 6-0 midway during the season.  Greeley West is led by running back Steffen Bunting, who has more than 1,600 yards this season, including a 223-yard performance last week.

“They are run-first but they throw it effectively,” Casebier said. “They will try to establish the line of scrimmage and it will take a great effort. We will have to play the best game of the year.”

Neill said the circumstance of the game is enough to get the team ready.

“This is playoff football. We have to prepare like it’s our last game,” Neill said. “We will be ready. Niwot was a great win, but we will put that behind us.”


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