Devils close out season with a loss
GYPSUM – By the end of Eagle Valley’s third drive, one could only assume Palisade was destined to win Friday’s football game. After two pushes into the Palisade red zone, the Devils came away with no points, and then a botched Eagle Valley snap and punt set up a Bulldogs’ score that would be all Palisade needed in a 42-8 victory.”They are a physical football team and have a big offensive line,” said Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno. “We didn’t adjust to what they did.” The Bulldogs came up in the clutch and used a solid running game that saw Aaron Wagler rush for more than 200 yards and Adam Swanson carry for more than the century mark.”Our offensive line controlled the game from start to finish,” said Palisade coach John Arledge. With the win, Palisade finished with a 5-3 record in the 3A Western Slope and took the third spot, while the Devils closed out at 3-5 in league and 3-7 overall.
“We got our hopes up after we beat Battle Mountain and thought we could get kind of going, but it seemed like we weren’t mentally tuned into this game,” said Eagle Valley fullback Brendan Best. The Devils moved the ball well on offense, picking up 17 first downs to Palisade’s 20, but had trouble finishing.Palisade picked up big chunks of yards on early downs, negating any damage it could have done by being flagged for several holding and false start penalties. Early stopsThe Devils started the game with a long drive that came thanks to good play calling and solid execustion. Faced with a fourth-and-5 on the Palisade 11, Eagle Valley appeared to score, but the play was called back on a holding. The Devils couldn’t connect on the next play and Palisade took over and marched down the field for a score. On its next drive, Eagle Valley moved to the Palisade 11 again, but the Bulldogs’ defense held strong to get the ball back.
“I thought we had two really good first drives,” Ramunno said. “We had a couple of calls that hurt us early, but you can’t dwell on that.” Eagle Valley forced a three-and-out on Palisade’s second possession, but after the Bulldogs took over on the Eagle Valley 16 following the botched punt, Palisade’s ground game kicked back up for a touchdown.With less than two minutes left before the half, the Bulldogs faked a punt on fourth-and-long that resulted in a Swanson touchdown. Final pushTrailing 42-0 with 3:30 left in the game, the Devils got the ball back for one final drive. Several long rushes by Eagle Valley quarterback Mike Medsker pushed the Devils down the field. Medsker, who ran for a team-high 68 yards, called his own number on a 1-yard keeper in the final minute. Bear Barkman caught a Medsker pass for the two-point conversion.
Best picked up several first downs on hard runs, while Alex Dorothy moved the chains on the ground and with a pair of long catches.As hard as Palisade ran the ball, the Devils weren’t backing down on defense. Best led the team with 15 tackles, followed by Danner Bartlett (14), Pena Wosley (14) and Nick Whitehead (13). Ups and downsFor the 12 seniors on Eagle Valley, Friday’s game was the final in their high school careers.”I’ve had a lot of fun, but it’s gone by really quickly,” Medsker said. “It seems like we just started two-a-days.” In a league where the fourth-place team has advanced to the state final in the past two years, the Devils come away with three big wins.
“We came out and beat Steamboat, who won the Slope, which was a big leadoff to the season,” Dorothy said. “Then we came out against Cortez and got our butts kicked in the first quarter, but we worked together and came back (to win 26-21).” Eagle Valley returns a core of players for next year.”Some of our juniors got really good experience,” Ramunno said. “We have a good group of running backs returning and I think our offensive line grew this year. There’s a lot to look forward to in our future.” Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at email@example.com, or 970-748-2935.Vail, Colorado