Palisade scores at will in rout of Eagle Valley
After beginning the season 0-2, the Palisade High School football team needed to get healthy and turn its season around.
Thursday, the Bulldogs earned their second consecutive Class 3A Western Slope Conference victory, defeating Eagle Valley 43-6 at Stocker Stadium.
“I think we’re just playing with more passion,” Bulldogs quarterback Jordan Salazar said of the difference from the first two weeks. “We’re mentally tougher.”
It took less than a minute and a half for Palisade to improve its mental outlook. That’s when, after the Palisade defense held Eagle Valley to a three-and-out to open the game,
Jesse Brannon fielded a punt at the Bulldog 41-yard line, took it upfield and cut to the left sideline. He raced 59 yards for the score.
Thursday marked Brannon’s first action since suffering a knee injury two weeks ago in the Bulldogs’ loss to Pueblo County.
Palisade is still plagued at times by minor mistakes. It fumbled away a chance to score on its first offensive possession at the goal line.
The Bulldogs’ only solace was that the Devils were struggling as well. Palisade intercepted a pass near the end of the first quarter and went ahead 10-0 on the first play of the second quarter when the long snap on a punt attempt went out of the end zone.
It would be the first of two such long-snap miscues for the Devils.
One play that worked well for the Bulldogs was a pass out to the left flat to running back Sean Dunn. After gaining 317 yards rushing against Battle Mountain last week, Dunn made his presence felt more in the receiving department Thursday.
He took a pass from Salazar and raced 48 yards for a score with less than three minutes remaining in the half. Two minutes later, the Bulldogs caught the Devils on a trap play,
Dunn scoring from 41 yards out to give Palisade a 23-0 halftime lead.
The pass to the flank was something the Bulldogs noticed on film during the week.
“We knew it would be there, the way they ran that Cover-3 defense,” Salazar said.
“That one seemed to be open so we hit it,” said Dunn, who gained 122 yards rushing and 101 yards receiving.
The Bulldogs’ defense stymied Eagle Valley’s double-wing offense all night, holding the Devils to minus-19 yards rushing, intercepting two passes and forcing one fumble.
After two consecutive victories, things get more difficult for the Bulldogs (2-2, 2-0 WSC). Up next is Moffat County at home next Friday, followed by a trip to conference preseason favorite Steamboat Springs the next week.
Although his team is improving week to week, “They got to learn how to find their own identity,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “We’ve got to do the little things.”
More important, he said, is to hone that mental toughness to which Salazar alluded.
“This is a man’s game and we’re playing with children” Arledge said.