Palisade bulldozes Eagle Valley 36-14
Vail, CO Colorado
GYPSUM, Colorado ” Palisade almost didn’t need to bring its playbook to Gypsum Friday night. The handful of plays the Bulldogs ran worked to perfection.
Palisade’s (4-0, 2-0) grind-it-out, power attack bulldozed Eagle Valley 36-14 at Hot Stuff Stadium. The second-ranked Bulldogs piled up 391 total yards of offense, including 268 on the ground.
“They beat us on basics,” Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno said. “Come off the ball, stay on blocks, running backs hit the hole hard. There wasn’t really many different plays they ran tonight. They just ran them well.”
Missing its two top backs ” Zachary Adair and Aaron Wagler ” the Palisade offense didn’t skip a beat. The tandem of Travis Fehlman and Jesse Brannon bruised the Devils defense for a combined 226 yards on 43 carries. Neither had a run for more than 17 yards, but the continuous six- and seven-yard gains on dives and option plays added up to a big night.
“We are just blessed to have some great running backs, kids that run the ball and with great vision,” Palisade assistant coach Matt Borgmann said. “Our O-line got a great jump on the ball. They were way more physical than I thought they’d be.”
Fehlman did a majority of the first-half damage for the Bulldogs. He scored Palisade’s first touchdown of the night from four yards out. On the Bulldogs next series, Fehlman capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown to push Palisade’s advantage to 15-7.
Fehlman finished the game with 107 yards rushing and three TDs on 21 carries. The senior also added 32 yards receiving.
“I would take my offensive line over any offensive line in the state,” Fehlman said. “I love these guys. They know what to do, and they do it right.”
Fehlman’s backfield partner, Brannon, probably shared the same sentiments. Brannon rushed for a game-high 119 yards, scoring the last touchdown of the game from 1-yard out for Palisade.
Inconsistency dooms Eagle Valley
While the Bulldogs averaged 5.5 yards per carry, the Eagle Valley offense couldn’t find a consistent rhythm. The Devils took advantage of a fumble by Palisade quarterback Jake Appling in the first quarter to set up their first touchdown.
Tanner Coulter’s 12-yard run gave Eagle Valley the ball at the Palisade 13-yard line. Two plays later, John Crawford plunged in from three yards out to give the Devils an early 7-0 lead. Unfortunately for Eagle Valley, the 10-play, 61-yard drive was by far its best of the night.
The Devils didn’t score their second touchdown until there was one minute left in the game. On the night, Eagle Valley only had 190 yards of total offense.
“We are having a hard time with consistency with the whole thing,” Ramunno said. “It’s frustrating because you’ll run a play and it will work well. Then you come back to it, and it won’t go anywhere.”
Quarterback Matt Morgan recorded most of the highlights for Eagle Valley on Friday. The Devils best offensive play was when Morgan would go back to pass, only to run after being under a heavy Palisade blitz. The senior rushed for 96 yards on 12 carries, but he also completed just 4-of-11 passes for 32 yards with two interceptions.
“I thought the way Matt Morgan played shows he works really hard,” Ramunno said. “He had a great second half. We just got to get everybody on that same thing.”
Harrison Neal was Eagle Valley’s second-leading rusher with just 39 yards on the ground.
Methodical Palisade kills any chance at a rally
Eagle Valley was still in the game at halftime, only down 22-7, but Palisade made sure the Devils couldn’t come back. On their opening drive after the break, the Bulldogs methodically marched down the field for a touchdown. The 14-play, 75-yard drive drained 7:35 off the clock and made the score 29-7.
After a long, Devils possession fizzled, Palisade did it again. This time the scoring drive covered 62 yards in 15 plays and took another 7:07 off the clock. Brannon capped his strong performance with his first touchdown of the game, stretching the lead to 36-7.
“We live and die with our O-line,” Borgmann said. “If they play crappy, we don’t play so well. It’s good when they do what they are supposed to do. When you can win that battle 90 percent of time, you’re going to win.”
Despite being over shadowed by Brannon and Fehlman, Appling put together a solid game under center for Palisade. He completed 5-of-8 passes for 123 yards. Appling also hit Matt Young for a 64-yard touchdown pass in the first half.
Palisade is back on the road next week at Moffat County. Eagle Valley (0-4, 0-2) will look to pick up its first win of the season at Steamboat Springs.
Contact Sports Writer Ian Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 748-2935