KMTS Game of the Week: Ayala’s Pick Clinches Homecoming Win

GLENWOOD SPRINGS (9/17/10) — The sagacity of playing 5A Fruita Monument for Glenwood’s football homecoming was questioned before, but not once the game began, and after the team and cheerleaders had sung the victory fight song, Chris Ayala — whose 88-yard interception return halted a Wildcat drive in the fourth quarter that would have tied the score and clinched the 36-28 victory — wondered if it might even earn him a date for Saturday’s dance.

With quarterback Luke Jacob and lineman Blaze Barham each sitting out the Montrose game following concussions in the opener with Basalt, the Demons were shut out by the 4A Indians last week. Both returned against Fruita, and the plague of procedure penalties and surfeit of offense ended as well.

Following a pass tipped by Garrett Lowe and intercepted by Nick Ciani near midfield, Jacob drove the Demons 59 yards in 13 plays, using more than five minutes, and Drew Halsch followed Barham and Chad Montover into the end zone from two yards out with 1:45 left in the first quarter. A Fruita penalty on Alberto Ramirez’ extra point kick attempt led coach Rocky Whitworth to call for Jacob to follow the same path for the two point conversion and an 8-0 lead.

It took only four plays for the Wildcats’ varied attack to answer: with three seconds remaining in the period, quarterback Zach Thorpe went 6 yards to cap a 68-yard reply and Spencer Fair’s PAT closed the gap to 8-7.

Glenwood went three-and-out, and a holding call on Montover’s punt to the FM 15 forced another kick, which was returned 22 yards by Devin Dance to the Demon 43. This time Fruita used only three plays, including a 22 yard pass reception by Martin Zupan, before Vince Grasso found pay dirt from the 15, giving the Wildcats a 14-8 lead with 9:24 to play in the second quarter.

After the back-to-back scores, Glenwood proved its mettle, driving 76 yards in 10 plays with Jacob going in from the one. Ramirez’ extra point try (first game kicker JD Weeden, who was 3-for-3 on PATs and 2-for-2 on field goals versus Basalt, did not return from vacation in time to be eligible) hit the upright and bounced away, leaving the teams tied at 14 for the extended halftime.

Jacob immediately passed and ran the Demons into the lead, hitting Cam Avery for 46 yards, then going off tackle for 23 himself to the four, setting up the second TD by Halsch. The PAT was blocked, leaving Glenwood ahead 20-14, but Fruita capitalized on a muffed punt at the Demon 13, regaining the lead on Zupan’s 2-yard run and Fair’s extra point kick, 21-20.

After an exchange of punts, Jacob again went to work. In the first half, he seemed a little out of synch with his receivers (4 of 9 for 78 yards) — perhaps due to the week’s layoff — but not so in the third quarter when Jacob completed 7 of 11 passes for 124 yards, including Montover’s first reception of the season for a 4-yard TD to cap an 8-play, 67 yard drive to take the lead with 13 seconds left in the quarter. The two hooked up on the same pass play to the opposite side for the two-point conversion, giving the Demons a 28-21 lead going into the final 12 minutes.

Thorpe hit Zupan for 29 yards, then an end around by leading receiver Tyler Daniels moved the ball inside the Demon 20. Dance drove up the gut for a first down at the 12, and Fruita seemed poised to knot the score. But Zupan slipped going around left end on second down, and when Thorpe dropped back to pass into the left flat, Ayala was waiting. The senior linebacker had dropped off into coverage, giving credit to the Demon scout team for how to defense the play, then picked off Thorpe at the four and set sail down the sideline. Eighty eight yards later, Ayala was dragged down at the Glenwood 18. “The scout team ran that play perfectly, and I just did what any defender would do,” Ayala said modestly.

Jacob quickly took advantage of the field position, following Barham and Montover again for 15 yards to the three, and scored his second TD from the one, soon after. The QB, who finished with 161 yards rushing on 23 attempts, then broke a tackle to add the two-point conversion for a 36-21 lead with 8:07 to play. Fruita added a final score on Thorpe’s draw play from the five with 2:14 remaining, but Jacob carried for a pair of first downs to run out the clock.

Willie Pelland emerged as a big-play receiver with a pair of grabs good for 59 yards and Grant Fegan (3 catches for 42 yards) and Avery (3 for 68) helped diversify the passing game as Jacob connected on 11 of 20 for 202 yards. Thorpe was 11 of 24 for 131 yards passing. Grasso led the Wildcats with 47 yards on 10 carries. Daniels, who had over 190 yards receiving against Cherokee Trail the week before, was limited to two catches for 12 yards.

The Demons (2-1) will play their 3A Western Slope League opener, Thursday, September 23 at Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction, against second-ranked Palisade (3-0).

About Jack Jabbour

High school sports analyst
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