PALISADE ON PARADE
Bulldogs dispatch Evergreen in 3A playoffs
Momentum kept going the Palisade High School football team’s way Friday night against Evergreen, even after the one play where the offense broke down.
Bulldogs quarterback P.D. Riddle narrowly underthrew a receiver in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, resulting in Palisade’s only turnover of the game. The defensive back who snagged the pass was pulled down at the 3-yard line.
On the next play, five Palisade defenders, Riddle included, piled up the Cougars’ ball carrier in the end zone for a safety.
After that, the No. 3 Bulldogs added one more touchdown to start a running clock and cruise to a 44-3 victory over the No. 14 Cougars in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs at Stocker Stadium.
Outside of the one snafu, Palisade did whatever it wanted on offense. The Bulldogs averaged 8.6 yards per play and out-gained the Cougars both through the air and on the ground.
Riddle finished with 160 yards passing and two touchdowns on 9-of-12 passing and running back Austin Bernal scored three touchdowns. The junior ran three times for 67 yards and two scores and caught four passes for 62 yards with one touchdown.
“We’re real confident,” Bernal said. “The offensive line is doing great and P.D. found a way to get me the ball. We found some holes and, you know, we opened up the field a little bit to get some big runs.”
With Isaac Maestas still limited to booting kickoffs and field goals as his broken right arm heals, several more running backs got carries. Sophomore Jason Bruce had five carries for 52 yards, Xavier Renteria broke off a 33-yard run and Tanner Pratt carried the ball 10 times for 34 yards and two touchdowns.
“We have a good little system going right now and these guys are playing well,” Palisade coach Joe Ramunno said. “It’s just going to keep getting tougher now and we know that. (Evergreen) gave us some different things that we had to adjust to and I’m proud of our guys and the way they handled it.”
It was the Cougars’ offense, full of different spread formations and numerous bubble screens, that tested the Bulldogs’ secondary.
Evergreen’s primary quarterback, Taylor Gray, was limited to only 105 yards on 20 attempts. The Bulldogs intercepted Gray once and dropped two more potential interceptions.
Senior defensive back Miguel Quintana hauled in the interception, coming up with a sort-of one-handed catch. Quintana has a cast on his left forearm because of a fracture sustained against Battle Mountain and can’t move more than the fingertips of his left hand.
Still, on the interception, Quintana guided the ball in with his right hand and trapped it against his chest with the cast.
“It’s a little tricky,” Quintana said. “But I’ve been practicing all week trying to get used to it.”
Kyle Hall — a 325-pound defensive tackle — led the defensive front, often taking on two opposing offensive linemen and plugging the middle of Palisade’s defense.
The Cougars abandoned the run fairly early in the game and finished with only 66 yards on the ground, but focused on the ground game early as they chewed up time in the first quarter.
Evergreen generated only two first downs in the first half. Palisade, after turning the ball over on downs to open the game, scored on its next two drives to go up 14-0 late in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs added another score near halftime when Riddle found Prescott Price through a small window for a 9-yard touchdown.
On Evergreen’s first drive of the second half, a drop on a backwards pass resulted in Palisade recovering the fumble. The Bulldogs scored three plays later on a 15-yard score from Riddle to Bernal.
After forcing a three-and-out, Bernal broke off a 57-yard touchdown run, plowing through at least five tackles in the process.
Jack Cardillo’s field goal got Evergreen on the board before the end of the third quarter, then Palisade pulled away after Riddle’s interception in the red zone.
“It feels good to come away with a win,” Ramunno said. “We’re in the final eight now, so we’re excited to have that opportunity.”
Palisade awaits the winner of No. 6 Palmer Ridge and No. 11 Mead, a which is at 1 this afternoon.
The Bulldogs will host next weekend if Palmer Ridge wins and travel if Mead is victorious.