Tigers’ defense shows its teeth in shutout of Overland
The Grand Junction High School football team has proven it can score, but the Tigers wanted to show they can play defense, too.
One week after giving up 35 points in a season-opening win, Grand Junction’s defense pitched a shutout Friday night, defeating Overland 35-0 at Stocker Stadium
“We got gashed last week,” junior defensive lineman James Diamanti said. “Thirty-five points was too much, so we came out here with a chip on our shoulder and made them put up a goose egg.”
“Last week we were embarrassed,” said 6-foot-6 defensive end Austin Berk, who knocked down two passes. “We had that in our minds. That’s unacceptable. We went hard every down.”
The Tigers (2-0) shut out Overland (0-2), despite the Blazers getting into scoring territory four times. Grand Junction intercepted quarterback Austin Conway twice in the end zone and limited Overland to 221 yards in total offense.
“We bent but we didn’t break,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said. “We gave up some yards, but when it came to crunch time in the red zone, we did a great job of keeping them out of the end zone.
“Our defense had a tough week last week and really bounced back.”
The Tigers, ranked second in the Denver Post media poll, continued to put up big offensive numbers.
The Tigers ran for 455 yards, led by quarterback Sean Rubalcaba with 13 carries for 216 yards and touchdown runs of 57, 62 and 59 yards in the first half. Jerreon Dennis rushed for 139 yards and one touchdown.
“That’s the thing about our offense,” Owens said. “With Jerreon and Sean in the backfield, it’s very (problematic) for defenses. They can’t stop them both. If guys are keying on Jerreon, Sean’s going to kill them.
“We’re probably not good enough to line up and pound it at people. A lot of times with our misdirection, people can’t key on us.”
It didn’t take long for Rubalcaba and the Tigers to score.
Rubalcaba broke off a 57-yard scoring run on the Tigers’ second play from scrimmage. Josh Moore successfully kicked the point-after.
Rubalcaba broke loose for a 62-yard run with 3:23 left in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead.
“It’s just (reading the defense),” Rubalcaba said. “It’s a system where we try to make the defense (guess) wrong. They were biting hard on Jerreon, I got a good read and luckily I got some blocking downfield.”
Overland mounted a drive into the red zone in the second quarter, but Grand Junction senior defensive back Zach Lebsock intercepted Conway in the end zone.
Four plays later, Rubalcaba broke loose for a 59-yard touchdown run and a 21-0 lead before the half.
Dennis ran for a 13-yard score and a 28-0 lead in the third.
Rubalcaba led the Tigers on one more scoring drive, this time completing a 15-yard pass to Aaron Minnick for a score early in the fourth quarter.
The Blazers had one last shot at the end zone, but Kaleb Johnson intercepted Conway and returned it before taking a big hit out of bounds on the Tigers’ sideline. Grand Junction received an unsportsmanlike penalty after coming to the defense of Johnson.
Grand Junction’s Kimani Robinson ran for 75 yards to the end zone, but the Tigers were whistled for illegal use of the hands and a personal foul, negating the touchdown.
The Tigers have plenty to work on after being flagged 10 times for 108 yards.
“I think we actually played worse,” Rubalcaba said. “We came off a big win and got lackadaisical. I think we overlooked this team. We need to come ready to play. This is a wake-up call. I guarantee we’re going to be working harder.”