The No. 4 Palmer Ridge football team gave future opponents a couple of new names to worry about in Friday’s 63-7 thrashing of No. 13 Holy Family in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs Friday at Don Breese Stadium.
Senior wide receivers Kaden Dudley and Deuce Roberson and running back Raef Ruel, all key contributors in the Bears’ state championship runs in 2017 and 2018, had typical nights. Dudley hauled in a touchdown pass and returned an interception for a touchdown, while Roberson and Ruel added receiving and rushing scores, respectively, but junior quarterback Luke McAllister and sophomore Anthony Costanzo had even bigger nights.
McAllister, in his first year as a starter, threw five touchdown passes and rushed for another score, while Costanzo hauled in two touchdown passes and picked off a pass in his most extensive playoff action.
“I think those guys having been involved in the program in the last two years and knowing what the expectation is, that always goes a long way, but when it’s your turn it’s always a little bit different, right?” Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford said. “I was pleased with the way they responded to that opportunity.”
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McAllister settled in early hitting Roberson and Dudley on quick passes before Roberson took a screen pass in for six on Palmer Ridge’s first possession.
After Holy Family’s second punt, McAllister hit Costanzo in stride down the seam for a long touchdown.
“That was a dime,” Costanzo said. “Perfect ball.”
Palmer Ridge was then stopped at the Tigers’ 1-yard line early in the second before Costanzo came up with an interception that resulted in Ruel’s rushing touchdown.
Holy Family answered with a long touchdown pass of its own before McAllister and Costanzo linked up a second time, making it 28-7.
“That dude is unbelievable,” McAllister said. “He’ll be a bright star for Palmer Ridge. He can do everything on all sides of the ball.”
The Palmer Ridge quarterback brought the running clock into play before the first half ended, scoring a rushing touchdown around the left side before hitting Marcellus Reed and Dudley on touchdown passes.
“I think Luke did a good job of taking what the defense was giving him early. The offensive play calls that coach (Darren) Grob made gave him the ability to make some decisions up there at the line. I think he did a good job of putting the ball in places it needed to be, and the guys that caught the balls made plays,” Pulford said. “It was fun to see that offense clicking.”
Palmer Ridge capped the scoring in the second half with a touchdown run from reserve back Isaac Heidel and Dudley’s interception return.
The interceptions and stingy run defense were a far cry from last week when the Bears gave up more than 500 rushing yards in a loss to Discovery Canyon.
“Our defensive line did a good job of doing the little things right and I think our linebacker play improved significantly,” Pulford said.
The Bears will play the winner of Saturday’s matchup between No. 5 Conifer and No. 12 Fort Morgan in the second round. The winner will have to deal with key pieces that helped Palmer Ridge to consecutive state titles and a couple of new pieces looking to contribute to a three-peat.
“We’re just focused from here on out,” Costanzo said. “We’re here on one mission. That’s it.”