No time to rest

Palisade ready to hit when facing Roosevelt

Photo by William Woody — Delta High School running back Zach Decker runs for first-down yardage during second-quarter play against Montrose High School opn Sept. 7, 2012, at Delta High School. The play was called back because of a Delta holding penalty.

Rifle’s Isaac Rider, #21, is pursued by Palisade’s Austin Terry as he carries the ball during a recent game at Stocker Stadium.

Palisade’s Dalton Hannigan finds himself facing Rifle defender Aaron Wagler, #10, as Wagler’s teammates Clayton Coombs, #56, and Coy Zang, center, move in on defense during a recent game at Stocker Stadium.

It was three days before Palisade High School was to play in the first round of the Class 3A state football playoffs, yet there was no resting sore muscles or protecting exposed fingers.

Two offensive linemen went against one hopeless defensive lineman. They collided. Coaches screamed, “Stay low.” Often, the defensive lineman fell, and an offensive lineman flopped on top, pinning him to the grass.

“It’s not fun,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “You watch it like, ‘Oh, man.’ “

Arledge said No. 9 seed Palisade (8-2) will have to control the line of scrimmage when it plays at No. 8 Roosevelt (6-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

But that’s not why Palisade was practicing its blocking and, defensively, shedding blocks.

“We always do that drill,” Arledge said.

It’s Palisade. And after all, there’s not much time to get better.

“This late in the season, everyone’s dinged up and sore,” Arledge said. “They’ve got a finger or toe hurting. Everybody would love to have a week to heal and go play, but you don’t have that luxury.”

So, you hit. After the blocking drill, the Bulldogs scrimmaged. Pads popped, and no one was yelling to take it easy on Dalton Hannigan. In his first season as the Bulldogs’ starting running back, Hannigan has 1,275 yards rushing on 158 carries, including 16 touchdowns.

Quarterback Luke McLean is the senior leader who has passed for more than 1,000 yards and is ready to help Palisade attempt a playoff run.

But now they run into Roosevelt, the 3A Tri-Valley Conference champion from Johnstown who, Arledge said, is similar to Palisade.

“They’re not a finesse team,” Arledge said. “They’re just a hit-you-in-the-face team.”

Bears take nothing for granted

No. 1-seeded Rifle (10-0) is not taking Erie (7-3) lightly when it hosts the Tigers at 1 p.m. Saturday. Not even with Erie (7-3) being the No. 16 seed.

That low seed actually is a reason for concern.

“In 2002 we were a No. 1 seed and lost to a 16 seed,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “So, we’re constantly telling our players anything can happen when you’re in the playoffs.”

Wells said Rifle lost to Fountain-Fort Carson that year. The Trojans had lineman Phil Loadholt, who now is in his fourth season with the Minnesota Vikings.

Wells found this out later.

“We were like, ‘Oh, OK,’ ” Wells said.

Although running back Ryan Moeller gets the attention for being one of the nation’s most prolific rushers with 2,202 yards, and he’s backed up by talented rushers Kellin Leigh (847 yards) and Isaac Rider (260), Rifle quarterback Adam Rice makes the offense go, Wells said.

Rice, a senior, has completed 27 of 52 passes for 484 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. Even more, Wells said, Rice makes a multiple-formation offense look simple.

“He just understands the game very, very well,” Wells said. “He’s smart, and we give our kids some pretty intricate plays, so I don’t know if that looks simple to other people. I hope it does look simple. When (Rice) gets a game plan he rarely makes mistakes.”

Delta’s defense playoff-ready

Delta’s defense seems to be coming together at the right time.

Before it shut out Steamboat Springs 35-0 in its final regular-season game, the Panthers’ defense held Rifle to 21 points — the Bears’ lowest point total of the season.

Coupled with an offense that has become explosive in the air, No. 13 Delta (7-3) may have begun to peak heading into its first-round state playoff game at 1 p.m. Saturday at No. 4 The Classical Academy (9-1).

“I thought we went up to Steamboat and put a very sound performance together,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said.

Both teams have prolific quarterbacks.

The Classical Academy’s Hantzen Ryals has 1,872 yards passing and 21 TDs.

Delta’s Mitch Whiteside has thrown for 1,507 yards and 13 TDs.

“Our quarterback has been playing real well on the offensive side of the ball,” Johnson said. “Our kids are confident, and they’re excited since it’s been two years since we’ve been in the playoffs.”


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