Palisade football starts off 0-2
It’s been a while since the Palisade High School football team was in this situation.
“We’re an 0-2 team, and we’re not used to that,” Bulldogs head coach John Arledge said Friday night after his squad’s 20-7 loss to Pueblo County at Stocker Stadium.
The loss came one week after the Bulldogs lost 17-16 at Woodland Park.
Friday’s game was actually closer than the scoreboard showed, but that was of little consolation to the Bulldogs, who led for much of the contest.
Two plays into Pueblo County’s first offensive series, the Bulldogs were looking at a deficit.
After the Hornets held Palisade’s offense on four downs in the game’s first series, Pueblo County took over at its own 36 yard line.
Hornets quarterback Austin Wallingford kept the ball on their first play for 18 yards. On their second play, Wallingford again called his own number around right end, broke toward the middle and scored from 46 yards out.
“We ran our defense for, like, four plays and said no way,” Arledge said of changing tactics to take away the option after Wallingford’s run.
On Palisade’s fourth series, the offense finally put together a sustained drive. Actually, it was only three plays, as Jesse Brannon broke off right tackle for 38 yards to the Hornets 14, then scored on the next play to put the Bulldogs up 7-6.
Brannon injured his right knee in the second quarter and spent the second half on the sideline on crutches.
That left the ball-carrying workload to junior Sean Dunn, who answered with 20 carries for 113 yards.
“I knew Jesse wasn’t in. I had to hit it as hard as he would, as fast as he would,” Dunn said.
Palisade caught a break just before the half. With 14 seconds left, Cody Blackmon attempted a 37-yard field goal. The kick was blocked and Pueblo County’s Josh Greenhood picked up the ball and avoided the one tackler he needed to. He couldn’t avoid the 20-yard line, however, and stumbled with one-tenth of a second remaining, his hopes for a return touchdown thwarted.
Pueblo County got its first defensive break late in the third quarter. Palisade quarterback Jordan Salazar dropped back to pass on first down but was hit as he threw. Hornets
linebacker Mitch Miller was all alone as he gathered the ball at the Hornets’ 43 and returned it 57 yards, Pueblo County regaining the lead 14-7 after the two-point conversion.
“That one pick was devastating,” Arledge said.
The Bulldogs had a chance on a drive late in fourth quarter but a fourth-down pass attempt sailed high.
The Hornets’ Brett Avila broke off a 60-yard run late in the game for the final score.
For Arledge, the difference was simple.
“Our line didn’t block very well,” he said of the Bulldogs’ 234 yards rushing. “Their up-front kids did a better job than our up-front kids.
“Up front we’ve got to get a lot tougher,” Arledge said, a date next Friday at Battle Mountain in the Western Slope Conference opener firmly on his mind.
“It’s there,” Dunn said of the Bulldogs’ game. “We’ve just got to bring it together, do it as a team.”