Playing role of underdog just fine for Palisade football team

An ecstatic Zach Judis sweeps Palisade teammate Ronald Kuntz, 35, off his feet after Kuntz scored a touchdown during the Bulldogs’ 47-7 victory over Kennedy at Stocker Stadium.

Palisade’s Dalton Hannigan, 25, upends Kennedy’s Kyle Trinidad on Saturday during the Bulldogs’ 47-7 win at Stocker Stadium. Tough play lifted Palisade into the Class 3A semifinals.

Palisade High School was supposedly overmatched by the highest-scoring football team in Class 3A.

Apparently, Palisade’s reputation as a tough, hard-nosed football team was taken for granted.

Palisade bullied John F. Kennedy on Saturday, rolling to a 47-7 victory in the Class 3A state quarterfinals at Stocker Stadium. The Bulldogs play Silver Creek (11-1) in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Everly Montgomery Field in Longmont.

“Everybody says they score high (point totals) in a game,” said Palisade senior Ronald Kuntz, who celebrates his birthday today. “Nobody thought we were going to win because we were the underdogs. We came out, played tough football and brought the hat.”

The Bulldogs (10-2) limited the Commanders, who averaged 48.6 points per game, to a season-low seven points and 128 yards in total offense.

“We had a great scheme,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “Coach (Bob) Sorensen and I really worked hard on the scheme. The kids bought into it. They knew what they were up against. (Kennedy has) a great running team and a quarterback that can throw it.

“Everybody is bigger than us. The bottom line was we got our breaks. We got a couple turnovers and we converted our chances into points. We played to the best of our ability.”

The Bulldogs’ toughness showed late in the game, when, on every other play, a Kennedy player lay on the field wincing in pain. Most of them returned, but quarterback Braden Miltenberger didn’t after taking a hit on an interception return in the fourth quarter. Kody Mansur, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman, limped off the field twice.

The Commanders (11-1) slowly trudged off the field, beaten, bruised and hurting from a beat-down from a smaller team.

“We didn’t play our game,” Kennedy running back Kyle Trinidad said. “We’re the top scoring team in the state. There’s no way this team just held us to seven points.”

Trinidad reached the 2,000-yard mark against Palisade, but was limited to less than 100 yards for the first time this season. He had 73 yards on 18 carries.

“Everybody talked about their running back, how big he is and how we need to stop him,” Kuntz said. “We played tough up front, made open-field tackles and stayed deep for throws.”

Palisade built a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter with ball-control offense.

The Bulldogs’ first drive took 7 minutes, 34 seconds and resulted in a Luke McLean 6-yard score. Quinn Zamora scored on a 1-yard run on Palisade’s next possession.

“We knew our best defense was probably our offense,” Arledge said. “If we could get first downs and chew up the time, we’d be in great shape. We had a great surge to get first downs.”

Kennedy came back to score on a 5-yard touchdown pass set up by a completion on fourth-and-5 to get within a touchdown.

The Commanders had the ball again, but turned the ball over.

Palisade linebacker Devan Lucero hit Kennedy receiver Kiko Zarate, the ball popped loose and Dalton Hannigan recovered and returned it into Kennedy territory.

“We got a big hit out of Lucero,” Hannigan said. “The kid dropped the ball. I picked it up and ran it a few yards. It helped us change the tempo of the game.

“That was one of the biggest plays I’ve made this year.”

Four plays later, Kuntz scored on a 20-yard run for a 21-7 lead.

Caden Woods caught a 38-yard pass from McLean for a 28-7 halftime lead.

The Bulldogs opened the second half with a JT Townsend 56-yard kickoff return, setting up Spencer Jackson’s 32-yard field goal.

McLean sacked Miltenberger in the end zone for a safety later in the third quarter and Townsend scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Kuntz capped the game with a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown.


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