Indians rumble past Grand Junction
Fumble return helps clinch win
MONTROSE — It was a no-frills game but nothing fancy was necessary.
When all the dust cleared from a night of smash-mouth, run-first offense, Montrose (2-2) came away with a 28-14 win Friday night over Grand Junction (0-3).
With both offenses dominating early, featuring mostly straight handoffs and a few pitch sweeps, neither defense had much success in the first half that ended 14-14.
After a mistake-free first half, the second half was cluttered with miscues, including the play of the game, which happened on the defensive side of the ball for Montrose.
“Mason (Weig) always makes a big play, in every game,” Montrose head coach Jim Scarry said. “Anytime you can get a defensive score, it turns the game around.”
It was a huge play that indeed gave all the momentum to Montrose.
With the Tigers looking to take the lead to start the third quarter, quarterback Jax Nourse plowed ahead for positive yardage inside the 12, then Weig popped out of the scrum with the football. And the race was on.
Weig came away with the ball at the 10 and sprinted down the left sideline with Grand Junction tailback Michael White in hot pursuit.
White made a dive at the 30, clipping Weig’s heels. The junior stumbled briefly, but stayed upright and scored.
“I saw the quarterback come through the line and one of our linebackers popped him,” Weig said. “I saw the ball rolling on the ground and scooped it up with both hands. All I was thinking was ‘Don’t get caught.’”
The 90-yard fumble return gave the Indians the lead for good at 21-14.
It took a while but Montrose finally iced the game after recovering a fumble at the 35. Cade Atwood capped the drive with a 5-yard TD run with 3 minutes, 53 second remaining.
The Montrose fumble recovery came right after an interception by Grand Junction’s Micah Wilcox.
With injuries to some key players in the secondary and hoping to slow down Grand Junction’s running attack, the Indians came out in the second half with a different defensive game plan.
“We basically went to a 4-4 with one safety,” Scarry said. “Our coaches made the adjustments, but for the kids to make that adjustment and go out there and play it so well, it speaks to how well the players accept the coaching.”
After the first four possessions of the game, the score was tied at 14-14 with a pair of tailbacks doing the majority of the damage.
White, who finished with 35 carries for 177 yards, had 20 carries for 108 yards in the first half alone.
His scoring runs of 3 and 9 yards answered the Indians, who got TD runs of 2 and 4 from quarterback Caleb Egbert.
The Indians took the opening kickoff and ran the ball eight times, with Riley Freeland gaining 47 yards on the drive.
Junction answered, but it took an early gamble by coach Mike Sirko to keep the drive alive.
On fourth-and-three from their own 43, White powered ahead for a gain of eight. A Nourse pass to Chavis Nourse for 14 yards was another key play in the 13-play drive.
Montrose kept it simple on its second scoring drive — 11 running plays and one pass for 85 yards. With Freeland routinely busting his way into the secondary, the Indians went to one pass on the drive, a nine-yard hookup between Egbert and Josh Waitman.
Waitman, who had a good game on the defensive side, said the team was focused on putting their two-game losing streak behind them.
“This is one of our biggest rivals, we just played with a lot of intensity, and we had a great week of practice,” he said.
The defensive adjustment worked well for the Indians.
White, who left the game for a while with a leg injury late in the third, had 69 yards in the second half.
The Grand Junction defense also played much better in the second half. After rushing for 95 yards in the first half, Freeland ended up with 139 yards on 20 carries.
With the Tigers keying on Freeland, the Indians turned to fullback Atwood to do some power running in the second half. He finished with 85 yards on 16 carries.
After beating Fruita Monument to start the season, the Indians lost to Rifle and Palisade, in games that Scarry said they didn’t win the turnover battle.
“We know that’s who we are. And we’ve had games where we’ve made mistakes and we’ve tried to learn from that,” he said. “When turnovers happen we have to have 11 guys rallying to the football because we know if the ball is on the ground, then we have a chance.”