Lightning can’t slow GJ in win over Highlands

HIGHLANDS RANCH — This one was so anticipated, so full of points (86), so much distance between the two programs (about 250 miles), so long (4 hours, 9 minutes) and, well, so ironic.

“This one was about defense, about getting stops,” Grand Junction quarterback Sean Rubalcaba said Friday night after his Tigers took a marathon 51-35 decision over host Highlands Ranch at Shea Stadium in a Class 5A nonleague game.

After a 1 hour, 34-minute delay because of a series of lightning storms that suspended play midway through the first quarter, the Tigers, ranked No. 4 in The Denver Post media poll, ran past the Falcons, who simply couldn’t keep up.

The officials told the coaches they would allow the game to be played no matter how late it was, as long as the lightning stayed away.

“They left it up to us, and Coach (Darrel) Gorham and I said ‘let it ride,’ ” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said.

Rubalcaba rushed 13 times for 191 yards and threw for 74 more. Backfield mate Jerreon Dennis, also a stalwart on defense, ran for 189 yards as Grand Junction surpassed the 400-yard mark despite losing a late snap among substitutes that netted a loss of 23 yards.

The two teams split two games a year ago, with the Tigers taking the playoff game on the road in the second round.

But Grand Junction made quite a statement.

“We don’t get a lot of respect,” Tigers senior wide receiver Chandon Rose said.

Gorham, formerly the head coach at Rifle, said, “We couldn’t deal with them up front. They’re big and they ran against us all night.”

The Falcons played catch-up all game despite a 22-point second quarter. The Tigers built an 11-0 lead as Rubalcaba ran for 29 yards on the game’s first play and Dennis went for 20 one play later.

Owens said the anticipation for the game never really subsided despite the long delay.

“I think it was a three-hour first half,” he said. “We talked to the kids about when we went to the Boise State camp this summer, we’d play a team and then have a little break and go play another team and have another little break.

“We did really well at that camp and we told the kids it was a mental thing. Physically, we knew we were as good a team as them, we just had to be mentally sharp.”

Cherokee Trail 28, Fruita Monument 19: Cherokee Trail rallied to score three touchdowns in the second half to defeat Fruita Monument in a lightning-delayed game in Aurora.

“The kids fought hard; we were in it,” Fruita Monument coach Sean Mulvey said. “We played tough defense and the offense moved the ball. We just didn’t get it done.”

The Wildcats (0-2) built a 19-7 lead in the first half, which was delayed more than an hour by lightning.

Third-ranked Cherokee Trail, though, opened the second half with a touchdown pass on third-and-long, then recovered a Fruita fumble inside the Wildcats’ 20 and scored to take a 21-19 lead.

The Cougars (1-0) added another touchdown on their next possession and held on.

Despite the loss, Mulvey is pleased with the Wildcats.

“We are focused on getting better each week and we got better,” Mulvey said. “We’ll keep working.”


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