Oh, so close
TCA's final drive ends Palisade's playoff run
Leading 21-17 and The Classical Academy 92 yards away, Palisade High School was six minutes from moving on in the Class 3A playoffs.
But the Titans’ Peter Troupe scored on a 2-yard run with 33 seconds left Friday night to stun the Bulldogs 24-21 at Stocker Stadium.
The Colorado Springs school made just enough plays on the drive, including a brilliant fourth-down pass and catch to help secure the quarterfinal victory.
The game-winning drive took 6:12, went 15 plays and was saved by a spectacular 24-yard leaping catch by TCA’s Nick DeRay on fourth-and-6.
The Classical Academy (10-2) head coach David Bervig said the Titans’ offense came through when they needed it most.
“We haven’t put together four quarters of offense all year and this is one of the best games of offense that we’ve every had,” he said.
Palisade (10-2) coach Joe Ramunno, who returned as head coach this year, said the Bulldogs just came up a little short.
“They came in and did some great things against us,” he said. “Our guys fought and clawed and we got back in it. Our guys battled but we just didn’t have enough in the tank. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”
The Bulldogs found the going tough against the Titans’ defense for much of the game.
The Titans had a 17-7 lead and looked to be in control late in the third. But as they have all year, the Bulldogs’ athletic secondary came up with a big play.
Senior Dalton Hannigan darted across the field as Titan quarterback Jantzen Ryals tried to squeeze a pass into the seam. Hannigan grabbed the interception and the momentum was back with the Bulldogs.
On third down, quarterback Levi Hoaglund dropped back, dodged a defender and launched a missile that dropped into the arms of Tass Crow for a 42-yard TD to make the score 17-14.
Then the Palisade defense stuffed Ryals on fourth-and-one at the Palisade 46. Hoaglund rifled a pass to Jack Millard but the ball deflected off his hands and right into Devan Lucero’s hands for a gain of 19. Hannigan sliced in on the next play on a 7-yard run and the Bulldogs suddenly had a 21-17 lead, leaving the Titans stunned.
But there was still 6:17 left and Ryals, who finished 10 of 17 for 148 yards, engineered the winning drive.
Hannigan said the Bulldogs responded after the interception but the Titans still found a way to win.
“After that pick, it felt like we got the momentum and I thought everything was going good but we didn’t make the plays that we needed to make,” he said.
The Classical Academy had a chance to get some breathing room in the third. Leading 17-7, the Titans used a 10-yard run by Andrew Register on a fake punt to keep the drive alive.
But Drake Buford wrecked the Titans’ offense after that, first with a sack and a loss of seven. Then he pressured Troupe ,who hurried a halfback pass that fell to the turf. Zach Marengo also stuffed Register for no gain on the drive to force the punt.
Palisade took advantage and drove the ball down to the 30 but a fumble gave the ball back to the Titans.
Defensively, the Titans handled Palisade’s vaunted flexbone option offense well. Hoaglund was limited to 57 yards on 16 carries.
Besides defending the quarterback option, the Titans did a good job taking away the counter and sweep plays that the Bulldogs rely on.
“That is such an efficient offense, we worked all week to be ready. To be honest, we got lucky. That is such a great team,” Bervig said. “They’ve got some great kids.”
“We didn’t play a perfect game like we knew we had to. This is a good team,” Hannigan said.
Palisade opened the game with a 16-play, 80-yard drive that Hoaglund capped with a 1-yard dive.
The Classical Academy came right back with a 17-play, 76-yard drive, finished by Ryal’s 1-yard dive to tie it at 7-7.
Palisade could only muster two first downs the rest of the half and the Titans scored 10 points in the second to take the 17-7 halftime lead.
Register was the workhorse for the Titans. Although Palisade kept Register from breaking any long runs, he ended up with 116 yards on 24 carries.
Hoaglund had a solid game throwing the ball and finished 9 of 16 for 132 yards and one touchdown.
A disappointed Marengo said the Bulldogs gave it a great effort.
“We fought hard and the scoreboard shows that. We played our best and just came up a little short,” the senior linebacker said. “We’re a good team and we’re going to carry that to our younger guys. That will be our legacy.”