The Palmer Ridge football team is 65 days away from playing its season-opener at Canon City. By that time, the Bears should be a well-oiled machine hitting on all cylinders.
“One of the reasons we’ve been as successful as we’ve been the last two years is because our guys are committed to coming in over the summer,” said senior right tackle Cam Reiman. “We’re all working hard grinding together, and along with everybody getting better for themselves, we’re also getting better as a team.”
Palmer Ridge didn’t become the two-time defending Class 3A state champions simply by having excellent athletes. Coach Tom Pulford and his crew began preparing for this season about a week after defeating Pueblo East in the finals Dec. 1. A rigorous year-round weightlifting program and intentional spring practices help set them up for high-level summer workouts.
“Our summer program gives the opportunity for our student-athletes to come and improve in their muscular endurance, increase their flexibility and technique and improve their speed,” Pulford said. “If we can do that through the process of things we put in place Monday through Thursday, we have a better opportunity at being successful.”
Training together as a team is also an important factor in Pulford’s philosophy. Building relationships player-to-player and coach-to-player also helps the team grow stronger each day.
The Bears spent spring ball installing their pro-style offense and defense.
“This is all going to help us make bigger strides toward winning games,” said senior left guard Nate Lemke. “When everyone comes and competes against each other, it brings us together and helps us compete as one. We’re always competing. Full speed, 100 percent.”
Added senior center Cade Phillips: “Experience helps, and when you have a lot of guys coming together who have had success, that can only help you.”
Until somebody takes the crown from them, the Bears are the class of 3A. They are 26-2 over the previous two seasons, with their losses being to 4A Pine Creek and 3A Pueblo East (state champs from 2014-16). Both schools are on Palmer Ridge’s regular season schedule again this fall.
Palmer Ridge has the bulk of its skill-position players back from last season, but a new signal caller will be behind center. Junior Luke McAllister (6-foot-4, 185 pounds) appears to be more than qualified to take over for Ty Evans, who is now a freshman at North Carolina State.
McAllister got into seven games last fall, completing 7 of 15 passes for 48 yards and a touchdown.
“We know all of our offense, and our offense is very smooth and we have very experienced guys coming back,” McAllister said. “We should be pretty explosive this year. It’s nice having so many talented guys coming back.”
Junior linebacker Saxon Wright said practicing against the Palmer Ridge offense makes the Bears’ defense better.
“We’re not going to face a more explosive offense,” Wright said. “That brings me up and brings the guys I’m playing with up to another level. We’re all bringing each other up.”