Bulldogs rally after halftime to defeat Montrose
Football can be a funny, fickle game.
Palisade looked pretty bad in the first half and only mustered one touchdown. But it was that lone first-half score that made the difference because the Bulldogs were quite good in the second half.
Trailing 27-6, Palisade (2-1) scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to beat Montrose 28-27 on Thursday night at Stocker Stadium.
Coach Joe Ramunno gathered his jubilant team after the game and told them “The ‘Dogs came of age today, I’m proud of you.”
That pride is based on how horribly Palisade played in the first half and how well they played in the second half.
Actually, the offense found its legs in that one second-quarter scoring drive — after a high-decibel talk from Ramunno on the sideline.
“We hadn’t played with any style, we just weren’t playing to our style, and we didn’t last week either,” Ramunno said. “We finally got a second half of it. We got motivated and (we said) quit talking about it, we gotta have guys step up and do it.”
The comeback started, like most comebacks do, with defense. Jason Bruce intercepted a Caleb Egbert pass early in the third quarter after the Indians drove the ball to the Palisade 30.
One of the big keys for the Palisade offense was when sophomore quarterback Cameron Tucker entered the game in the first half. He’s the team’s starter but had missed last week’s game with a knee injury.
Ramunno said the plan was always to get Tucker into the game.
“We just didn’t want to throw him in right away, but he came in and did a great job,” Ramunno said.
In Palisade’s first scoring drive, Tucker reversed his field and broke free for a 19-yard run on third down.
That set up an 11-yard TD run by Austin Bernal after taking a nifty pitch from Tucker.
Tucker duplicated his improvisational running in the second half, again reversing his field and breaking free for a 15-yard run. That, coupled with the ensuing 15-yard personal foul penalty, got the Bulldogs going.
Terrance Williams, who had only 10 yards rushing in the first half, finished the drive with a 9-yard run and Tucker converted the two-point conversion.
Montrose dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage in the first half, but the Palisade defense came to play after the intermission.
A three-and-out and the Bulldogs’ O was back on the field.
Tucker threaded a dart down the seam to Joseph Alejo for 15 yards and two plays later, Bruce found the edge on a 2-yard TD to cut the lead to 27-20 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Again, the defense forced another Montrose punt.
Ramunno said the defense was the key.
“Our guys got some energy off that, a couple of things got going and we got back to running the ball and we were able to throw it a couple of times, and we did what we had to do,” he said.
After Bruce broke loose for a 23-yard gain, Bernal slipped through a hole and scampered in from 31 yards out.
Then it came down to the two-point conversion and Bruce took care of that to give the Bulldogs the lead for good at 28-27.
Montrose (1-2) had a couple more chances but the Palisade defense was up to the task.
After driving to the Palisade 42, Kiegan Davis and Cody Cordova stuffed Egbert for a gain of two on fourth-and-4 to halt one drive.
The Indians got the ball back, but Bruce’s 45-yard punt pinned them back at their own 4-yard line.
The drive halted after seven plays and Palisade ran the clock out.
Mistakes hurt Montrose in the second half. The one turnover, a fumbled pitch and a number of penalties all contributed to the Indians never finding any offensive rhythm.
The Indians had all kinds of rhythm in the first half.
Sam Collins caught a 24-yard TD pass from Egbert on fourth down for a 7-0 lead. Collins then scored on runs of 2 and 11 to stretch the lead to 21-0.
Collins ran for 97 of his 153 yards in the first half.
Egbert was a perfect 5 for 5 for 87 yards in the first half but didn’t complete a pass in the second half.
Egbert scored on a 6-yard run late in the first half, but the PAT was no good.
That one point loomed large once Palisade found its footing after halftime.
Tucker said the team talked at halftime and knew what they had to do.
“We just told each that our motto all week was guts, fight and pride, and we established that and made sure we did it the whole half, and we came together as a team and played better, it was a great team effort,” he said.
Ramunno said it was special to see the team respond after a bad first half.
“We really had some young guys who came in and kinda came of age, who really played well in the second half,” he said.