The Palisade High School football team knew it would be getting bad news on Monday no matter what. The only question was the severity.
In that context, the Bulldogs' discovery has a silver lining.
Star quarterback Cam Tucker, who scored 34 touchdowns last season, was diagnosed with a sprained right ankle after leaving the Bulldogs' 25-18 victory at Durango late in the fourth quarter last weekend.
He's out indefinitely, but coach Joe Ramunno expects his senior leader to return during the regular season.
"(The Class 3A playoffs are) a long way off," Ramunno said. "He'll for sure be back by then. We've just got to do it right and have our trainer work with him. We'll see."
Coaches and players feared Tucker had broken his ankle after a 31-yard run to set Palisade up in the red zone with around 5 minutes left at Durango. He finished with 30 carries for 211 yards and a pair of scores.
When will he receive his next carry? That's going to be up in the air for a while.
"He's a very, very tough young man," Ramunno said. "I know that if he can play, he'll play, but we want to do what's right for him."
In the meantime, Palisade will stick with the quarterback who filled in admirably for Tucker in the Bulldogs' season-opening victory.
Junior Gabe Harrison replaced Tucker with the ball inside the Demons' 20-yard line. He eventually scored from 7 yards out on an option keeper, one of his two carries on the night, to lift the Bulldogs.
Last season, in limited time, Harrison ran 15 times for 102 yards and a score. His longest run was 36 yards.
He'll have few bigger supporters on the sideline during his time as starter than Tucker.
"I'm feeling pretty good, especially since I've got Cam helping me out and teaching me the plays," Harrison said. "I've got a great team and a great O-line with me. These boys will help make it easier."
It can only help Harrison's confidence that despite being thrust into the starting role, he already has a game-winner under his belt this season.
"It definitely made me not as nervous going in," Harrison said. "Now, I know more about what to expect in a big varsity game against a D-line like that. It was pretty nice and a great feeling to get that win."
His late heroics also inspired more confidence in his coach, who prepares Palisade for a Top-5 showdown in 3A at Stocker Stadium on Friday night.
The No. 2 Bulldogs are hosting No. 4 Green Mountain, their second top-10 matchup in as many weeks to kick off the 2019 campaign.
"We'll work all week preparing with Gabe and getting him all set to go," Ramunno said. "He's a team guy. He's going to give you everything he's got. That's our system. You have to be that person. You have to be that guy who's selfless."