GLENWOOD SPRINGS(9/26/14) – “I can’t remember ever beating Palisade,” senior Evrett Marr said after Glenwood’s 17-10 win over 3A’s number 10-ranked team. The defensive struggle, won in the trenches by the home team, was the school’s first-ever victory over a Joe Ramunno-coached team and “after getting bullied and beat up by the Bulldogs,” in Marr’s words, avenged three years of losses for eighteen senior Demons.
Before leaving to coach at Mesa State, Ramunno led the Bulldogs (3-2, 1-1 WSL) to four straight 3A state titles from 1994-97, and in the last three years, Palisade outscored Glenwood (3-2, 2-0) 100-46. So, taking a 7-0 lead with 4 seconds remaining in the first quarter on an 11-play, 70 yard drive capped by Dante Sparaco’s 4th-and-one, 11-yard touchdown run, provided another building block on what coach Rocky Whitworth called last week’s 44-26 “confidence builder” over Grand Junction Central.
Prior to that scoring drive, big plays by co-captains Marr and Sam Carmer halted Palisade on downs at the Demon 30, and the defense, led by Chase Nieslanik and Matt Osier, stopped option QB Matt Sorenson on the first series of the next quarter. A holding penalty wiped out Marr’s 20-yard first-down run, but Sparaco, facing 1st-and-22, broke free around right end for 68 yards to the Palisade 23. Marr did the rest, going for 11, followed by a 12-yard touchdown run, the first of his high school career. Robert Hiles’ PAT gave Glenwood a 14-0 lead with 8:40 to play in the second quarter.
Last season Marr was the Demons’ leading receiver and would run an end-around once or twice a game, but has emerged as a running threat outside and between the tackles, as well as Sparaco’s favorite passing target this year. The two connected on a 24-yard completion into Bulldog territory after Isaac Maestas completed a 15-play, five-minute, 81-yard scoring drive on a 4-yard option pitch from Sorenson that cut the Demon lead in half with 2:59 remaining.
But Sparaco found Marr again for a 17-yard strike to the 19, then with time winding down, had to spike the ball to stop the clock, and missed on a 3rd-down pass, his first real incompletion after going 7-for-7 to start the game. Hiles came on to boot a career-long 37-yard field goal with 20 seconds left, his 4th 3-pointer in five tries this season, for a 17-7 halftime lead.
Palisade, which used seven different runners in the game, began to wear the Glenwood defensive front down in the third quarter as the Demon offense could manage a net two-yards on their two possessions. But the defense, led by Cristian Gonzalez, with able assistance from Gerry Viveros, Osier, and Marr, continued to get tough on key downs. Then when Sorenson had to leave the game briefly for an unknown reason, back-up QB Arles Hernandez fumbled at the Demon 35, and Marr recovered it for the game’s only turnover. “I just saw it tumbling out” of a pack of players at the line of scrimmage, Marr said, short-circuiting the Bulldog drive.
After the recovery, Glenwood picked up its only first down of the quarter on runs by Marr and Sparaco, but the drive died at midfield, and with Prescott Price pouring in on him, Nieslanik’s rushed punt went just 9 yards. Gonzalez set the defensive tone on the Bulldogs’ first play after the miscue, nailing Hernandez for a 5-yard option loss. “All week in practice it was ‘assignments, assignments, assignments,” Gonzalez said in explaining how the defense adjusted to stop the potent first-half option game of the Bulldogs. “We had to do our jobs to win this game, and I went straight to the quarterback.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Sorenson returned at QB and scrambled 25 yards on a broken play to the Glenwood 25. Marr broke up a pass on 2nd down, and Hiles stopped Sorenson short of the first down on another scramble, sending Marques Combs in for a 39-yard field goal which split the uprights with plenty to spare, closing the gap to 17-10 with 8:35 left in the game.
Glenwood was still unable to move the ball – managing just two net yards (none in the 4th quarter) on 18 second half plays – but Sorenson, punting just outside the Demon end zone, got off a 39-yarder, and Austin Gonsalves tackled Maestas for a loss on the return. Still, Palisade had the ball on their 47 with 6:26 to play, and began to grind out what looked like a potential game-tying drive.
Caleb Clarkson gained 6 on 4th-and-2 to the 40 with 4:30 on the clock, and a counter by Easton Woods found daylight for 18 yards on 3rd-and-3 to the Demon 15. Carmer and Viveros threw Clarkson for a loss to the 16, and Sorenson’s option run gained just two, bringing up 3rd-and-9. The junior quarterback’s pass was underthrown to Hernandez, and a motion penalty on 4th down pushed Palisade back to the 19. This time Sorenson, who completed just one pass for two yards in 7 attempts for the game, overthrew Woods in the left side of the end zone with 1:18 to go.
Ramunno used all three of his time outs in bringing Glenwood to a 4th-and-2 at its own 27, in an effort to give Palisade one more opportunity with 58 seconds left. After the time out, Glenwood did not come out in punt formation, but Sparaco went to a hard count trying to draw the Bulldogs offside – and Price, who was in the backfield all night long, jumped, yielding a Glenwood first down and the ability to take-a-knee twice for the victory. “That was huge,” Marr said afterwards. “I was not expecting that (Palisade to jump offsides), and we were all screaming.” Seconds later, the Demons, their fans, and cheerleaders were singing the Glenwood Victory Fight Song after the Demons’ first triumph over Palisade since a one point win at Grand Junction’s Stocker Stadium in 2010. That was also the last time a Glenwood team won its first two league games. That Demon squad, led by quarterback Luke Jacob, went undefeated in league and won three playoff games, for 10 in a row, before losing to Elizabeth in the state championship.
Sparaco scored his 6th touchdown in five games, gaining 97 yards (93 in the first half) in 18 carries. Luke Prosence, who scored 3 touchdowns in the Central win, gained 43 in five first-quarter attempts, but carried the ball just twice more for five additional yards as Palisade made second-half adjustments to close down the Demon run-game. Marr had four catches (all in the first half) for 56 yards and also gained 33 yards rushing in eight carries. Woods led the seven Bulldog rushers with 67 yards in 8 of his team’s 48 attempts that piled up 246 yards to 155 for Glenwood. But the Demons found a way and are now tied with Rifle (5-0 overall, and 2-0 after a 36-19 win over 3rd-ranked Delta) atop the Western Slope standings. The Demons will host Eagle Valley (4-1, 1-1) for their Homecoming game next Friday.