Montrose holds off upset-minded Panthers
MONTROSE — Delta High School gave Montrose a scare, but in the end, the Indians prevailed in one of the state’s oldest rivalries.
The Panthers scored two touchdowns in a 14-second span early in the fourth quarter to get within a touchdown, but Montrose responded with a 10-play, 70-yard drive to seal a 38-24 victory Friday night at Montrose High School.
Montrose has won both games in the rivalry since it resumed last year after a hiatus.
“They came out hot,” Montrose senior Peter Shearer said of the Panthers. “It’s a big rivalry game for them. They came out with some fire.
“There are some tough kids up there. They ran the ball harder than we expected at first.”
The Indians’ 10-play drive was all on the ground and ate up nearly five minutes of the clock. Although Shearer and Nick Foster each had a couple of big runs on the drive, like they did all night, it was Mike Rocha who punched the ball into the end zone on a 4-yard run with 5:12 left in the game.
Delta picked up one first down on its next possession, then had to punt. The Panthers got the ball back with 26 seconds left, but ran out of time.
“I thought they really showed a heart of a champion,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said of his team. “They were down early and could’ve gave in. We got a little momentum, but they ended up coming back. (The Indians) executed when they needed to execute and won the game.”
Shearer and Foster combined to rush for 253 yards to lead the Indians, but Rocha was the one to punch the ball into the end zone three times.
Montrose senior running back Angelo Youngren broke his right hand against Palmer Ridge last week and didn’t play.
“All our backs did a good job,” Montrose coach Todd Casebier said. “They did a good job taking away some of our inside stuff. Foster and Shearer ran very well. I thought our offensive line was sharp.”
Montrose (3-0) jumped to a 20-0 lead in the first half with two touchdown runs from Rocha and one from quarterback Kameron DeVincentis.
Delta (1-1) came back with a Cade Gafford 22-yard touchdown pass to Kory Mills just before the half.
The Indians were leading 31-7 late in the third quarter when the snap on a punt sailed over the punter’s head and out of the end zone for a safety.
The Panthers got the ball back and put together a 57-yard scoring drive, taking advantage of a pass-interference call against Montrose along the way. Ryan Whiteside caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Gafford.
“We had an unfortunate call on the fourth down when we had them stopped, and they called us for pass interference on the screen,” Casebier said. “That kept their drive going, and they scored their second touchdown of the game, but I thought our kids battled on defense.”
Delta recovered a Montrose fumble on the onside kick, and Gafford hit Whiteside for a 27-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
They hooked up again on the two-point conversion to get within a touchdown with 10:04 left in the game.
“We had our hands team in there, and they kicked it right in between, and it bounced right to them,” Casebier said. “That’s nobody’s fault. Then they made a great play. Number 11 made a nice catch.”
Gafford completed nine of 21 passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns. Whiteside caught four passes for 55 yards.
“I thought they got us a couple times late, but overall I thought (the pass defense) was good,” Casebier said. “Their quarterback throws a nice ball, and they have a pretty good receiver.
“He made a play. At the same time, defensively, we’ve got to get a better pass rush.”
It was too little, too late, though, for Delta, as Montrose relied on its running game to wear down the Panthers.
“We had a couple missed things on crashes,” Johnson said. “We bounced off their big back. We hit him in the backfield a couple times, and we bounced off him. He did his job, and we missed tackles.”