Montrose High School football to make a run at championship

Montrose’s Kirk English runs for 72 yards with Glenwood’s N. Ciani hot on his heels during the first half of Friday’s game at Montrose High School.

This is the group.

With 19 seniors and a host underclassmen who have plenty of experience, this is the Montrose High School football team that has a shot to make a run at the Class 4A state championship.

“This is our first four-year group,” Montrose coach Todd Casebier said. “They have heard all the speeches, listened to our philosophy and have been with us longer than any other group. This is an outstanding group and certainly as good a time as any.”

That time begins at 1 this afternoon when the Indians (9-1) play Niwot (7-3) in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs at Montrose High School.

Casebier, who led Palisade to a Class 3A championship in 2003, left what was one of the most successful programs in the state to go to one of the worst programs in Colorado.

In the four years before Casebier arrived, the Indians went 8-32. In the four years since, he has compiled a 33-12 record, with three nine-win seasons and four trips to the playoffs.

Casebier’s original three-year plan hit fast forward.

“I really had a three-year plan: the first year to be competitive, second year hopefully establish something and have a chance in the playoffs, and in the third year win in the playoffs. We did all three in the first year,” Casebier said.

“In our second, third and fourth year we won the league, which you feel good about, but then we have gotten beat in the quarterfinals twice.

“We want to win in the playoffs and we hope this group will make some noise.”

The 2008 Indians have certainly not been a quiet bunch who hopes to surprise teams. After an opening loss to Glenwood Springs, the Indians went on a nine-game winning streak and outscored its opponents 365-60.

“Our defense is creating turnovers and not allowing points, our offense is controlling the line of scrimmage and controlling the ball,” Casebier said. “If you can do that, you will have a hard time getting beat.”

The players have meshed well with Casebier. The coach preaches and the team responds.

“They listen to what you have to say, and everything we have asked of them, they have done,” Casebier said.

And the Indians did it despite some early adversity.

The Indians were set with senior quarterback Kirk English, who accounted for 19 touchdowns as a junior.

Not only did the Indians lose their season opener to Glenwood Springs, they lost English to a broken right arm.

The Indians turned to a lanky sophomore, Nathan Robertson, who was impressive in the season opener — as a receiver.

He threw one touchdown on a double pass and caught an 88-yarder from English.

Now, though, he was the guy.

“I was really nervous when I first found out the next morning when I saw Kirk,” Robertson said.

“Before the season, my goal was to maybe play on defense a little bit. I never dreamed I would be the starting quarterback.”

Robertson was a freshman quarterback, but the jump to varsity football came with a much thicker playbook.

“I had to learn a lot,” Robertson said. “Freshman was just the basics, so the first few weeks were a lot more difficult. I was just trying to get the plays down.”

In Robertson’s first game against Piedra Vista, N.M., the Indians threw only three times. Robertson completed two of the passes, including one for 85 yards and a touchdown.

The Indians won 42-0 and the sophomore gained some much-needed confidence.

“We lost to (Piedra Vista) last year so everyone was talking about how they were pretty good, so that made it a little bit worse,” Robertson said. “But I threw that pass and that was really nice.”

Casebier never expected Robertson to have to take on the responsibility of running the team as a sophomore.

“We lost what I thought was the best quarterback in the league in Kirk,” Casebier said. “Not only did we have to replace a quarterback, we had to replace an outstanding quarterback.”

That outstanding quarterback returns today, but he won’t be replacing Robertson.

Instead, English, an all-conference defensive back last season,  will play cornerback.

“I knew I wasn’t done and there is a lot more football left to play,” English said. “I just kept working and striving to come back and play.”

English’s right arm is immobilized by a soft cast, but it shouldn’t affect him on defense.

“It is great to have Kirk back because if nothing else, Kirk deserves to play,” Casebier said. “He has worked as hard as anyone I have ever coached and he is one of our captains.

“I had very high expectations for his senior year and now we are going to have to condense it. Kirk will be ready to play on Saturday because he has to put a whole year of football into one game, and I think he will.”

Montrose certainly isn’t a one-trick pony offensively. Tailback Jordan Passehl has rushed for more than 1,200 yards behind a line of David Turner (LT), Taylor Reed (LG), Andrew Kolowich (C), Kyle Miller (RG) and Jed Smith (RT).

English, Robertson, Passehl and the rest of the Indians can expect to get a tough game from the Cougars.

“We have a very good team coming in here and you are happy to be at home,” Casebier said. “But I feel we are playing very well right now and I like our chances.”


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