Strong return: Cabriales sparks Palisade’s dominating defensive effort
Armando Cabriales had been waiting for this moment for two long years.
When it finally arrived, he took full advantage.
The Palisade High School defensive lineman stepped onto the football field for the first time since 2009 on Thursday night and was instrumental in helping the Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 Western Slope Conference) rout Eagle Valley 42-7 at Stocker Stadium. Cabriales, who had been dealing with eligibility issues, had eight tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
Not bad for someone who was pacing the sideline since his freshman year.
“It’s been two long years for me,” the 5-foot-9, 265-pound junior said. “I made some dumb decisions and messed up with my grades, but I’m back and I’m just happy to be on the field with my teammates and it felt great.”
Palisade coach John Arledge was thrilled to get Cabriales off the sideline and back on the field.
“That was a great game for not playing in two years,” he said. “I think he’s the best defensive lineman in all of Class 3A, but he hasn’t been able to play. Tonight, I thought he did a great job.”
Thanks to Cabriales and the rest of Palisade’s stifling defense, Eagle Valley struggled to produce any offense. The Bulldogs held the Devils to 113 yards of total offense, including 22 yards in the first half. For the game, the Devils managed only five first downs.
“Our defense is still pretty young, but we all just want to make plays,” Cabriales said. “We don’t want the other team to score and we want to do what we can to get our offense back on the field and that’s what this defense is all about.”
The Bulldogs entered the game after a stunning loss to Battle Mountain last week. The loss, the Bulldogs’ first of the year, dropped Palisade from No. 2 to No. 8 in the Class 3A rankings. Rebounding with a strong performance was all the Bulldogs wanted against Eagle Valley.
“To tell you the truth, we were just out to win,” Cabriales said. “That loss (to Battle Mountain) was better to happen now than later down the road. It was a tough loss, but we learned from it, got better and came away with a win tonight.”
The loss to Battle Mountain, Arledge said, was tough, but also a learning experience.
“We don’t lose very often, but when you do, I think as a team you learn quite a bit,” Arledge said. “It was a good win because we got better on some things and I liked the way our kids were enthusiastic and played with pride.
“I think our kids played up to our level pretty quick. That’s what we wanted to see. In the last three games we’ve had slow third quarters and bad things have happened, but tonight we took care of business and it was nice.”
While Palisade’s defense was dominating, so too was the offense.
The Bulldogs racked up 406 yards of total offense. Quarterback Luke McLean led the offensive attack with four rushing touchdowns. McLean also threw for 131 yards and two touchdown passes — one to Caden Woods and another to Lane Orman. Ronald Kuntz led the Bulldogs with 96 yards rushing. Palisade scored on its first six possessions to invoke the running clock with four minutes left in the second quarter.
Cabriales set up the Bulldogs’ fourth score of the first quarter when he sacked Eagle Valley quarterback Jordan Hudspeth for a 7-yard loss and forced a fumble. Zach Judis recovered the fumble for the Bulldogs and five plays later, McLean scored from one yard out for a commanding 28-0 lead.
For Cabriales, it was almost poetic justice to have such a dominant performance in his first game back in two years and in front of a home crowd.
“I didn’t want to be selfish, so I just did what my coaches told me to do and what my teammates needed me to do,” he said. “It just felt great being out there with my team again.”