Montrose felt no ill effects from its five-hour bus ride to Palmer Ridge from the Western Slope. The Indians hoarded possession through nearly the entire first quarter while gaining a two-touchdown edge to present the Bears with their first real test in a new classification.
It was a not-so-pretty start that would trouble most teams. But the Bears are not ‘most teams’. And they woke up Friday feeling dangerous.
Palmer Ridge forced a major momentum swing in the second half, scoring three times in the first four minutes of the third quarter on the way to a 42-20 victory to remain undefeated.
Still scoreless midway through the second quarter, Palmer Ridge went for it on 4th-and-1 from the 1-yard line. Senior quarterback Luke McAllister swung wide left and tried to use his 6-foot-5 frame to stretch the ball over the goal line, but was knocked out at the one.
Montrose took over on downs, and the defense went to work, forcing the Indians to punt. The resulting drive was placed on the shoulders of Boise State commit Kaden Dudley, who took the punt return and a pair of receptions from McAllister into the end zone.
“I think it was definitely a game changer. When Luke didn’t get that touchdown I knew it was time we had to start ballin’ out,” Dudley said.
Palmer Ridge had an onside kick and recovery to start the third quarter, ending in a 14-yard touchdown pass from McAllister to junior Anthony Costanzo.
A second onside kick from Palmer Ridge put the Bears in the end zone just eight seconds later, this time from sophomore Gator Robinson with a 30-yard catch-and-run.
But the real show stopper occurred minutes later after a Montrose punt pinned Palmer Ridge down at the 2-yard line.
McAllister was under pressure and threw the ball away from the end zone, but the resulting hit pulled him from the game the following play.
Enter sophomore Jimmy Thomas.
Thomas launched a pass up the middle to senior tight end Cam Jones, who weaved through defenders in a 97-yard touchdown.
“I would die for this team and I give every play everything I have,” McAllister said. “But we call Palmer Ridge QB U because we have a lot of great quarterbacks, and I couldn’t be happier to have (Jimmy) behind me.”
“There’s not a whole lot that is accidental here, we try to be real intentional on the details, but when things are surging I try to keep it light,” said Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford, who could be heard shouting, ‘I woke up feeling dangerous’ from the sidelines following the Bears’ opening touchdown.
Pulford said he woke up at 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning in anticipation of his team’s meeting with Montrose, and thought back to his first two meetings against the Indians in his first two seasons as head coach at Palmer Ridge. Montrose defeated the Bears 59-20 and 48-7 in successive season-openers plagued with injuries and adversity.
“When I woke up there was a sense of urgency within me and it has a lot to do with having gone through that,” Pulford said. “There are things that stick with you as a coach, that is certainly one of them. The opportunity to avenge something, even though it's not the same kids, makes me feel dangerous.”