Cardinals top Rams behind explosive passing game
Looking to bounce back last week’s loss against the Basalt Longhorns, the Grand Valley Cardinals took to the air Friday night against the visiting Roaring Fork Rams to pull off a convincing win, 41-6, in Parachute.
Behind 193 passing yards and four total touchdowns from standout junior quarterback Jeff Holbrook, the Cardinals jumped on the Rams early before taking control of the game to double their win total from last season in just the third week of the 2016 season.
“We’re still growing and we still have things to work on, but I was really proud of the performance tonight,” Grand Valley head coach Tim Lenard said. “I thought the kids came out and played as a team tonight, where last week we played as individuals. It was nice to get back on track tonight and play together.”
Starting things off against Rams, the Grand Valley offense quickly went three-and-out before forcing the Rams to go three-and-out on their first possession, setting up the first big splash play of the night through the air.
Facing a 3rd and 14 from their own 33-yard line, Holbrook took the snap and evaded a Roaring Fork defender before firing a deep ball down the field to a waiting Laytham Magana behind the Rams’ secondary for a 56-yard gain, setting up the Cardinals in the redzone at the Roaring Fork 11-yard line.
“We have some really good athletes,” Holbrook said. “That wasn’t where the ball was designed to go on the play, but I saw a mismatch with Laytham out wide and fortunately we just took advantage.”
One play later Holbrook took the naked bootleg 11 yards around left end for the first score of the game at the 6:33 mark of the first quarter.
Roaring Fork — without standout quarterback Hayden Bernot available for the game – looked to respond on its second drive of the game but quickly went three-and-out again, giving the potent Cardinals offense the ball once again.
Five plays later Holbrook hooked up with Jayden Wood down the seam for a 50-yard scoring strike, extending the Grand Valley lead to 13-0 late in the first quarter.
Trailing by double-digits early, the Rams looked to get back into the game.
A big return on the ensuing kickoff by Alex Dominguez into Grand Valley territory put the Rams — under the direction of quarterback Jake Kelley — in great position to get on the board, but a three-and-out, followed by a fake punt on fourth down that failed to get past the sticks resulted in a turnover on downs for Roaring Fork.
Fortunately for the Rams, Grand Valley turned it right back over on the first play after the change of possession as Holbrook and Angel Garcia botched an exchange, allowing a Roaring Fork defender to pounce on the ball near midfield, setting the Rams offense in great position once again.
After drawing a pass interference penalty on the Cardinals on fourth down, the Rams picked up the first down, but simply couldn’t do anything with it the ball after that. Without Bernot under center, the Rams’ game plan was thrown for a loop as Jake Kelley — who hadn’t played quarterback since 7th grade — was thrust into the role.
“He’s never really played quarterback, so you’re limited to three plays right, three plays left,” Roaring Fork Head Coach Jeff Kelley said. “It makes it next to impossible to have a game plan. You practice more trick plays than you do normal plays, so it’s tough.”
Dealing with the unfortunate situation under center, the Rams really couldn’t get much of anything going offensively, allowing the Cardinals to really pull away early.
After another turnover on downs by the Rams, Holbrook found Jason Schubert down the left sideline for a 46-yard touchdown, extending the Cardinals’ lead to 20-0 midway through the second quarter before Schubert capped off the scoring in the first half with a 10-yard touchdown on a jet sweep, sending the Cardinals into the half with a 27-0 lead.
Hoping to get back into the game in the second half, the Rams received the opening kickoff but unfortunately turned it over two plays later, setting up Levi Nolan’s 28-yard burst up the middle for the score, giving the Demons a 34-0 lead early in the second half.
From there things got worse for the Rams as another fumble gave the Cardinals possession deep in Roaring Fork territory, setting up Holbrook’s third touchdown pass — second of the game — to Schubert from 14 yards out, all but wrapping things up with the Cardinals in front 41-0.
But credit to the shorthanded Rams who never stopped fighting throughout the game. Facing a large deficit, the Rams drew up a trick play on a throwback pass as Dominguez fired a perfect strike down the field into the waiting arms of Aldo Pinela, who took it the rest of the way for a 63-yard touchdown to get the Rams on the board.
Pinela later rushed for 28 hard yards in the fourth quarter with the clock running, setting a strong example for his younger Roaring Fork teammates. For a team with playoff aspirations coming into the season, it’s imperative for the young Rams to remain focused despite the current struggles.
“You just have to tell them to fight and have pride in themselves,” Kelley said. “We’re going to watch film and look at what we did wrong, look at what we did right. We’ll work on getting better every play and look to get victory in our next opportunity.
“It’s hard when you’re best player is on the bench, and I think unfortunately with high school kids, they feel nervous too and know that their chances of winning are reduced greatly. But we’ll bounce back.”
With the win, Grand Valley moves to 2-1 on the year, while Roaring Fork falls to 0-3.
The Rams will host Paonia next week in Carbondale, while the Cardinals will hit the road for a matchup with Aspen.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.