MONUMENT - For the second time this season Palmer Ridge proved its dominance over last year’s 4A state champs.
Saturday the No. 4 Bears took down Pueblo South 41-7 in the opening round of the 3A state tournament to keep their dream of a back-to-back state title alive.
It looked to be a high-scoring game with each team trading a first-possession touchdown — but it remained high scoring only for the Bears.
“I think it’s very difficult to beat a team twice and Pueblo South is very well coached and they had a great game plan coming in,” Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford said. “There were some things that we were vulnerable on early and we had to get that part fixed.Trading off first possessions and starting 7-7 I thought it was going to go a lot differently for the first part of the first half.”
South’s 1-yard touchdown by Cole Sniff early in the first quarter would be the Colts’ only opportunity of the day as the Palmer Ridge defense shut down South’s offensive momentum.
“Our players are executing at a very high level right now,” Pulford said. “We put (our defense) in some pretty tough spots field-position wise with kicking the ball out of bounds, penalties, but our defense responded every time and they did a great job.”
The Bears pulled down three interceptions and pressured South quarterback Logan Petit all while the offense controlled the clock.
“I’d hate to play against our defense,” junior running back Raef Ruel said.
“Our defense is a tight-knit group and when we step on the field it’s just the mantra that we are going to take care of it,” senior defensive end Aidan Cullen said. “They score in that first quarter and we make our adjustments from there and kept that shutout from that point on.”
The defense held South in the middle of the field a majority of Saturday’s first-round game with just two opportunities to score after the opening touchdown.
South attempted a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter that went wide. And with 30 seconds left to play the Bears held South in the red zone with great pass coverage, forcing three incomplete passes into the end zone.
“Our defense are some dogs,” Palmer Ridge quarterback Ty Evans said. “I think they deserve way more recognition because they come out every week and they hold every offense they’ve come up against.”
Last time against Pueblo South, Evans had less than 100 passing yards while Rule and the run game controlled the momentum against the Colts.
It was the same game plan coming into the first round with Ruel, Noah Brom and Josiah Castro controlling the ground game.
But it was Evans and his corps of receivers who did the work in the end zone. Evans threw for four touchdowns and ran in a 20-yard score. Two of his touchdown passes were to senior Charlie Deeds for 20 and 30 yards, respectively. Evans also tossed up a long 66-yard touchdown to Deuce Roberson and a 22-yarder to Kaden Dudley. Dudley also had two interceptions.
Brom had a 6-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Our offensive line does a great job blocking for us every week and Raef and Noah do a great job and they’re awesome running backs. It’s great to have that option but I love to air it out,” Evans said. “That’s kind of the good part about being a senior. I can go out there and see what the defense is giving me and I have the opportunity to just go make plays.”
Palmer Ridge will face No. 5 Harrison at home next week in the second round as Evans will face his longtime friend, Harrison quarterback Orlando Westbrook-Sanchez. Evans and Westbrook-Sanchez have known each other since about fifth grade and train together at Jenkins Elite.
“I love O and I love everything he does, he’s a great player, but I guess next week we’re not going to be friends,” Evans joked. “It’s going to be really fun. I’ve never really been in that situation so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”