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Palmer Ridge football blanks Cañon City, hits stride with historic 5-0 start

September 29, 2017 Updated: September 30, 2017 at 4:04 pm
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Palmer Ridge senior Cory McLellan (1) celebrates with senior Zach Hester (8) and senior Nathan Holmes (13) after a touchdown against Cañon City Tigers in boys' football on Friday, September 29, 2017 at Don Breese Stadium. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

MONUMENT - There was one question that came to mind after Palmer Ridge's 43-0 victory over Cañon City on Friday.

Can anyone stop the Bears?

Midway through the regular season, Palmer Ridge's football team made history with its first 5-0 start thanks to a squad that has been virtually flawless through five weeks.

But coach Tom Pulford joked that he's sure he will find some flaws while reviewing Friday's film.

Entering Week 5, the then-unbeaten Canon City Tigers looked to be Palmer Ridge's toughest competition before the postseason behind dual-threat quarterback Zac Hanenberg, and their exceptional back Kadin Porter. But despite averaging more than 40 points in the first four weeks, the Tigers could not find their way past the Palmer Ridge defense.

Palmer Ridge sophomore Raef Ruel (30) runs up the middle as senior Andrew Miller (16) and junior Mitchell Jefferis (75) defend against Cañon City senior Lance Johnson (81) and junior Mason Kosch (8) in the second quarter. The Palmer Ridge Bears hosted the Cañon City Tigers in boys' football on Friday, September 29, 2017 at Don Breese Stadium. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing 

"After last week with our defense falling apart a little bit we went hard in practice to make sure that doesn't happen again," Palmer Ridge middle linebacker JC Sparks said. "Canon City has a great running back and a great offense, and we just needed to make sure this week we came together as brothers, and we all came up and did our jobs and played for each other."

Palmer Ridge (5-0) set the tone in the first five minutes with a 30-yard score by Raef Ruel, but the Tigers stormed back on the next possession and moved the ball to the 15-yard line. The Bears were not about to let a shutout slip that early. Palmer Ridge's defense stuffed Canon City at the 15 and forced a field-goal attempt, which was blocked.

The defense stepped up again early in the third quarter thanks to a huge sack by Ky'a Martin to back Canon City (4-1) up to the 1-yard line. Palmer Ridge blitzed again to force Hanenberg to the back of the end zone, and then throw it away to the far sideline. Intentional grounding was called and Palmer Ridge was granted a safety.

"That was exactly our game plan," Sparks said. "We knew he could run and he's good in open space and has an arm so we wanted to collapse the space and get him into tight spots where he couldn't do that. Our defensive line was great tonight to make that happen."

"We tried to shore up our blocking scheme but they have such a complex pressure scheme that it kind of threw us off," Canon City coach Tom O'Rourke said. "And offensively and defensively we never really found our stride today."

While his defense was putting in work, Palmer Ridge quarterback Ty Evans put on a clinic with five touchdowns, including an impressive 69-yard toss under pressure to Deuce Roberson early in the second quarter.

Palmer Ridge junior Ty Evans (18) drops back to pass in the first quarter. The Palmer Ridge Bears hosted the Cañon City Tigers in boys' football on Friday, September 29, 2017 at Don Breese Stadium. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing 

"(Evans) just makes things happen on his own," O'Rourke said. "That long touchdown, it looked like a sack but he breaks out. Our defense did what we practiced doing but he is a great quarterback and makes things happen."

Canon City broke through the line to pressure Evans out of the pocket a few times, but on a combination of his evasive footwork and ready receivers, Evans turned the pressure into yardage.

"I think Ty's performance tonight is combination of his offensive line and his ability to move out of the pocket and make good decisions," Pulford said, "and when those things are going there are a lot of things to be thankful for."

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