Tigers finish season on winning note
The nonqualifer games to some might not mean much, but to Grand Junction, it was a final opportunity to complete some goals.
The Tigers played well in all three facets of the game Thursday, defeating Palmer 42-22 at Stocker Stadium.
“I have been telling them all week that this is a great opportunity to go against a 5A school matching our caliber and come out with a victory,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said. “This is something to build off of.”
Grand Junction (3-7, 1-3 Southwestern Conference) not only got its first 5A win of the season, but put together its best and most complete game beginning with the opening drive of the game. After the Terrors marched down to the Tigers’ 10-yard line, Grand Junction senior Tyler Palmer picked off an Andre Brown pass to swing the momentum to the Tigers.
Grand Junction capitalized on the turnover with a 16-play drive, capped by Jayke Brock’s 1-yard run. The touchdown began a big second quarter for the Tigers, with Grand Junction scoring on its next two drives.
First, Sean Rubalcaba hit Ashur Verna for a 6-yard TD, then Brock scored on a 43-yard run to give Grand Junction a 21-0 halftime lead.
Brock had a big night, finishing with 213 yards on 18 carries.
Palmer narrowed the gap midway through the third quarter when Robert McDougal scored on a 5-yard run.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Terrors kicked it short to offensive lineman Matt Wilkinson. Wilkinson, who returned the previous kickoff 10 yards, began to run toward the Tigers’ sideline but handed the ball to Tyler Winder on a reverse. Winder raced 75 yards up the Palmer sideline for a touchdown.
“We had planned on running that play,” Wilkinson said. “I wasn’t supposed to catch it but I did, (Tyler) pulled from back side and I gave it to him. I was pretty sweet to get it going.”
The senior tackle received a lineman’s dream late in the game when he was given the opportunity to run the ball from inside the Terrors’ 5-yard line. Wilkinson rushed it four times for four yards but was unable to score.
“I have been a lineman my whole life so that was great to get the ball,” Wilkinson said. “Not winning too much all season, it feels great to finally get a win under our belt against a 5A team.”
Wilkinson wasn’t the only senior to have a special night. Palmer intercepted another Brown pass in the first half, giving him 10 interceptions in his career.
Verna was the next senior given a chance to shine. The Tigers pushed their lead to 35-6 when they ran a reverse, with Verna launching a pass down the field to Cory DeRush. DeRush caught the ball at about the 30-yard line to complete the 70-yard scoring play.
“The seniors have been good all week about working hard at practice,” Owens said. “We knew that this game is so precious and I told those guys that there will come a time when you don’t get the opportunity to play football so when you have a chance like tonight to run with it.”