Injuries, turnovers hurt Tigers against Falcons
Another tough loss for GJ
The first play from scrimmage all but set the stage for the Grand Junction High School football team Friday.
The Tigers offense, which had scored only one touchdown in their first two games, had a chance to get an early jump on undefeated Highlands Ranch.
Alas, the play resulted in a turnover, and with only 16 seconds gone, Highlands Ranch had the momentum.
The Falcons (3-0) kept the momentum, rolling to a 42-7 victory at Stocker Stadium.
“In the first half, the wheels fell off,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said.
The Tigers (0-3) felt like they had gotten maybe their first big break of the season when they recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff at the Highlands Ranch 11.
They tried a little trickery on their first play, quarterback Sean Rubalcaba pitching to running back Justin Trujillo, who pulled up and lofted a pass in the end zone. The pass was picked off by Jace Davis in the right corner of the end zone.
“We’re not going to hold anything back,” Owens said of the his philosophy of challenging a team early.
Although the Tigers forced the Falcons to punt on their first series, Highlands Ranch got its second break moments later when it blocked a punt attempt by Grand Junction, taking over at the Tiger 10 to set up their first touchdown.
The Falcons would put two more scores on the board by the end of the first quarter, scoring on a 30-yard interception return by Michael Brady and a 77-yard punt return Anthony Carr.
“I really felt like we hit rock bottom in the first half,” Owens said as the Falcons would build their advantage to 35-0 by halftime.
Having five players in street clothes with injuries didn’t help. That included Jayke Brock, the junior running back who sustained a shoulder strain in Wednesday’s practice.
“He’s our offensive leader stats-wise,” Owens said.
It also meant that Tyler Stanford, who’d been trading quarterback duties with Rubalcaba, was moved to fullback in certain formations.
Grand Junction had only 15 yards total offense in the first half but came back to mount a couple of drives in the second half, including a 48-yard scoring drive on its last series.
“I felt like we responded in the second half,” Owens said.
Rubalcaba said the offense is starting to progress.
“Every game my confidence level goes up,” the freshman said.
“We haven’t played to our capabilities since (a) scrimmage at Steamboat Springs (before the season),” Owens said. “We’ve just got to find a way to get the pieces together.”
Getting players healthy again would be a big step, especially with the Tigers preparing to open the Southwestern Conference season on Friday against Fruita Monument.
Darrel Gorham, who began his tenure as coach at Highlands Ranch in a similar situation as Owens with young players, had good words for the Tigers.
“They’ve got a work in progress,” Gorham said. “They’re doing a good job.”