Tigers take control in 2nd half of road win
WESTMINSTER — After struggling at times on both sides of the ball for a game and a half, the Grand Junction High School football team felt it needed to make a statement Friday against nonconference opponent Mountain Range.
The Tigers didn’t necessarily change either their offensive or defensive game plan in the second half. They just executed them a little better.
Grand Junction rode the momentum of a third-quarter safety to take the lead for good, rolling to a 28-14 victory and spoiling the Mustangs’ homecoming.
“In the second half we didn’t make a lot of changes,” Tigers coach Robbie Owens said after his team took a 14-13 deficit into halftime. “We just ran the plays better. It’s execution.”
After incurring their first loss last week against Ralston Valley on the road, the Tigers might have thought they were in for the same fate when, on the fourth play from scrimmage, they gave up a 45-yard touchdown run to Gabe Gellespie on a third-and-five play.
Instead, even with starting running back Austin Lewis on the sidelines nursing a shoulder injury, they answered emphatically, driving 43 yards in 12 plays, with quarterback Tyler Heinsma taking it the final five yards for the tying score.
Mountain Range (3-1) responded with a 12-play scoring drive of its own, spanning the first and second quarters to retake the lead 14-7.
After the teams traded punts, the Tigers then mounted a 16-play drive, capped by Kaleb Johnson’s 10-yard run on fourth down with two yards to go for a first down. The point-after kick was blocked.
The Tigers, who had won the coin tossed but deferred, received to open the second half. Their drive stalled one yard short on fourth-and-four, but they’d made a statement.
“That’s why we defer (the coin-flip choice),” Owens said. “We want to control the second half.”
The defense, aided by a penalty, backed up the Mustang offense. Defensive lineman Deshaun Harris then produced a momentum-turning play, tackling Mustangs quarterback Andrew Wamsley in the end zone for a safety.
The Grand Junction offense continued to move the ball, with Lewis began making his presence known in the backfield despite the shoulder injury, rushing for 112 yards. He was complemented by junior Dion Martinez, who got the starting nod and answered with 136 yards on 21 carries.
After Heinsma scored on a six-yard keeper midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers salted the game away on a nifty Martinez 22-yard touchdown in which he spun out of a couple of tackles.
Grand Junction held Mountain Range to only three first downs, two on the final drive, in the second half.
After the Tigers dropped in the rankings after the loss to Ralston Valley, Owens said the win on the road got his team refocused.
“We expect to be ranked in the top 10,” Owens said. “This was a good win.”