Special teams help Demons get past ’Dogs
John Arledge and Rocky Whitworth both put a lot of emphasis on special teams.
“I think any good team does,” said Arledge, the head football coach at Palisade High School.
“In games like this it comes down to special teams often,” said Whitworth, his counterpart from Glenwood Springs.
With the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A, Palisade, hosting the second-ranked team, Glenwood on Saturday, at Stocker Stadium, each team knew what the other was going to do offensively and defensively.
In ways good and bad for both teams, that left it up to the special teams to deliver a key play.
Glenwood got the initial edge as Jeff Screen returned the opening kickoff to the Demon 43-yard line.
“It’s all about field position,” Whitworth said, and Screen’s runback gave his team the initiative right away, setting up Glenwood’s first touchdown.
Then Palisade’s special teams came into play. After the Glenwood score, the Bulldogs blocked the PAT.
That came into play later as Glenwood scored again but went for the 2-point conversion and failed to convert.
Palisade scored to cut its deficit to 12-7. Here came Screen again, bringing the ensuing kickoff back 38 yards.
“We changed (our kick return) up this week, our blocking pattern and the guys blocking,” Screen said.
“They did a good job.”
With the score tied 15-15 at halftime (thanks to a field goal by Glenwood and a 2-point conversion run by Palisade), Glenwood scored to retake the lead. Again, the Bulldogs blocked the PAT kick attempt.
“We do PAT as much as anybody,” lamented Whitworth, who said his team spends much of its practice time during the week working on special teams.
“We keyed on that this week,” Screen said, knowing the game could very well hinge on one special teams play.
Glenwood quarterback Dakota Stonehouse reversed his field and ran to the right corner for a 2-point conversion after the Demons’ final touchdown in the fourth quarter to give his team a seven-point lead.
“I think we had to (go for 2) to seal it,” Stonehouse said.
Although special teams may not have been the determining factor for Palisade, they played a role, including Jesse Brannon’s first-half punt return to the Glenwood 44 that set up a score.
“There’s a lot of time (spent) on special teams,” Arledge said of his weekly practice regimen.
For both Arledge and Whitworth, they played a major role in determining strategy throughout the game.