MONTROSE — As the final seconds ticked away Saturday, the chant "Montrose proud!" cascaded down from the stands as the Montrose High School football team walked off the field after a 31-19 loss to Pueblo West in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
"We'll be right back here next year," Montrose head coach Brent Mertens told his team in the huddle.
Pueblo West moves on to the state semifinals on Nov. 30 for the third time since 2012.
Pueblo West (11-1) struck first on a muddy field when running back Matt Rudd broke through the middle of the line for a 49-yard touchdown run with 3:59 left in the first quarter. The Indians (10-2) had a pair of costly fumbles in the first half, which gave the Cyclones extra offensive opportunities.
Leading 10-0, Pueblo West capitalized on one of the turnovers when quarterback Chandler Mason connected with Makai Funaki for a 38-yard score with 12 seconds left.
Montrose opened the second half with a failed onside kick, and the Cyclones took advantage with Mason tossing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Menegatti.
Trailing 24-0, the Indians' offense finally got untracked, scoring 19 straight points with Keagan Goodwin's 25-yard pass to Aaron Dietrich accounting for the first score.
"The line did a great job blocking the hell out of everything. I had a lot of time to throw," Goodwin said.
After a successful onside kick, recovered by Dietrich, Goodwin again hit his receiver, this time for a 19-yard score. Dietrich fell down on the route, but got up to make the catch in the back of the end zone.
"I knew I had to go up and make a play," Dietrich said. "Nothing much went through my head other than every ball in the air is mine, and I made sure I got it."
Entering the fourth quarter the Indians trailed 24-12 and were driving. A fumble on the 9-yard line gave the ball to Pueblo West, but the Cyclones couldn't seize the momentum, turning the ball over on downs.
Montrose's running game, led by Cole Simmons and Emmert Kastendieck, was largely responsible for the next scoring drive and Simmons capped the march with a 5-yard run.
"The O-line got me in there and we were able to keep the game close and keep us off the ropes," Simmons said.
Rudd's second TD gave Pueblo West a 31-19 lead and then the running back broke free for a 69-yard gain late in the quarter to seal the win.
"It was unfortunate that we were down 24-0, but we had it back where we had them right on the ropes there and if we could have gotten a stop on D and get the ball back, we could have won that football game," Mertens said. "It's a heck of battle by our kids and I'm so proud of them. We had four or five turnovers and you can't do that against a good team."