A glance at Palmer’s 1-4 record might indicate it’s another lost year for the Terror football program, which has won just three games since 2016.
But those inside the huddle know this year is different.
“The word of the year here is ‘believe’,” said Palmer coach Tom Reber. “We have a ton of weapons here, we have a ton of great athletes here at Palmer and I think what they saw last week is that they’re capable of hanging with anybody.”
Last week Palmer threatened the now 4-1 Air Academy team in a 30-28 loss in a performance that has the Terrors exuding confidence as they host Mesa Ridge on Friday in the Gazette Preps Game of the Week.
“Coming off the game last week we showed our potential on both sides of the ball and we need to bring that grind and grit every game,” said Palmer linebacker Joe Naple. “They are going to know who the Palmer Terrors are.”
Mesa Ridge enters Friday’s 4A Southern opener 3-2, defeating Widefield and Coronado prior the Grizzlies' bye last week.
Coach Rob Braaten said his team was "banged up" heading into the bye, so the Grizzlies got some much-needed time to recuperate and it has been back to business at practice this week.
Mesa Ridge is led by quarterback Kyle Gaster throwing to a senior-laden receiving core, led by Andres Esquivel with 261 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and Dillon Campos who has 105 yards and three scores. Gaster averages 121.4 yards per game.
Junior Elijah Ross has emerged as the team’s top rushing threat with 282 yards and four touchdowns, but Jasiah Henderson and Arthur Campbell, who both have 115 yards, are solid options on the Grizzlies run game, according to Braaten.
“All three of them each have a different skill set, so we set them up to do what they’re good at,” Braaten said. “They’ve done a nice job all season and they all understand their role and that’s a great part of this team. We have good receivers and good running backs, but only one football, so we do a good job of spreading it around and the guys accept their role.”
Braaten said he has emphasized to his team this week that the Terrors are not the same team they defeated 68-6 a year ago.
“They aren’t making mistakes anymore,” Braaten said. “They are an emerging football team and if you take them lightly they will catch you. We understand what they can do. They have some really talented athletes and our job is to keep that under control as best we can.”
A year ago Palmer averaged just 135 yards of offense per game. But with a new offensive scheme and a new quarterback the Terrors average 100 more yards in passing alone.
Junior Carlos Moreno took over under center and averages 211.4 yards per game and has thrown for 11 touchdowns. Junior Jaiveon Kendrick and senior Jesse Saiz are his top receivers with 366 and 322 yards, respectively.
While Palmer averages just 82 yards rushing, Kendrick has run for 350 and three scores.
“This year feels a lot different,” Kendrick said. “Since my freshman year all we used to do is fight and get mad and blame everything on each other. So this year we have been coming together and pumping each other up and giving each other confidence.”