Montrose times rally perfectly
MONTROSE — It looked bleak, but there was no panic.
Montrose High School trailed Rifle 29-28 on Friday night with just under two minutes remaining. That’s usually not a good situation for a running team, but the Indians didn’t change things up too much.
A touchdown pass with 16 seconds left capped a 64-yard drive to give the Indians a 34-29 victory.
The drive had six runs from Sam Collins and three completions from Caleb Egbert to Reed Barney, the final one an 8-yard beauty that Barney snagged with his left hand in the corner of the end zone.
Egbert said the key was playing with composure.
“We practice it quite it bit honestly, and we featured it this week in practice,” the senior said. “When we have adversity, we’re going to fight it and just stay calm. Coach tells us we’re going to have some highs and we’re going to have some lows but just stay calm and stay consistent.”
It was a thrilling game with an explosive second half, with both teams answering each other. Ultimately, it came down to Montrose having the ball for that last drive.
Early on, the Indians (1-1) used their running game like always, but the big plays were few.
For Rifle (1-1), it was a big-play game, with all four of the Bears’ touchdowns going 43 yards or more.
On the Bears’ first series of the second half, Tanner Vines took a handoff, broke through a huge hole up the middle and sprinted 78 yards for a touchdown to give Rifle a 21-14 lead.
When it was the Indians’ turn, it was far less exciting but just as effective drive. The 17-play, 65-yard drive, with 16 runs, was capped by Cade Atwood’s second 2-yard TD run of the game.
That’s when first-year head coach Brett Mertens made a gutsy call to go for two. But the Bears stuffed the run to keep the lead.
Rifle took over at the start of the fourth quarter and put together a 13-play drive that took 7 minutes, 58 seconds off the clock. It also included a fourth-down conversion by Camron Shepherd with a determined run.
But the Indians halted the drive after a key holding penalty on Rifle.
Montrose took advantage and Egbert lofted a high pass down the left sideline that Barney ran under for a 55-yard TD to put the Indians up 28-21 after Collins’ conversion run.
In a game that featured two high-powered running games, the flying footballs were the real story of the game.
Even before the home-town crowd had stopped celebrating Egbert’s TD throw, Rifle QB Luke Ellis threw his third TD pass of the game, this one to Shepherd down the middle of the field from 50 yards out. This time it was Wells’ turn to go for the lead, and it worked. Shepherd ran in the two-point conversion and the Bears led 29-28.
That’s when Montrose put together its game-winning drive.
Collins was the Montrose workhorse, rushing for 175 yards on 32 carries — with 107 yards coming in the second half. It was a hard-nosed game for the senior whose long run of the game was just 11 yards.
“I’m not worried about the big runs, I’m just focused on getting first downs,” Collins said, giving Rifle’s defense credit for playing well. “It feels good, we just have to cut down on a few of our small mistakes.”
Ellis’ ball fakes kept Montrose guessing at times and in the first half, the senior QB made a great play-action fake and threw a perfect strike to Brandon Fletchall for a 66-yard TD to open the scoring.
Egbert scored on a 54-yard run to put the Indians up 14-7.
After another nifty ball fake, Ellis found Colton Parsons for a 43-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 14-14 at halftime.
“We really wanted this win, especially as seniors, that’s our goal every week, to go 1-0, and this was a great win,” Egbert said.