Demons the new top dogs |

Demons the new top dogs

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado ” It’s not often Glenwood Springs or Palisade get to play a full four quarters of football.

For much of the season, the Demons and Bulldogs have racked up enormous early leads and have shifted into cruise control by halftime.

Not on Saturday.

With each squad getting the job done in a vastly different way ” Glenwood sporting its flashy, finesse offense and Palisade its bruising ground game ” the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams in Class 3A traded jabs from the opening kickoff until almost the final whistle.

It wasn’t until Jake Appling’s last-ditch, fourth-down pass dropped onto the synthetic turf at Mesa State College’s Stocker Stadium late in the final quarter that the No. 2 Demons secured a 29-22 win over their newfound rivals, grabbing sole possession of first place in the 3A Western Slope League in the process.

“The game went as expected,” Glenwood head coach Rocky Whitworth said after his Demons knocked off the top team in the state according to RockyPreps. “We expected it to be a game just like that. Both teams made plays. If it lasted five minutes longer, it might have been a lot different.”

Whitworth’s description could not have been more on target on a wild day ruled by turnovers and rolls of the dice.

Two Palisade fumbles ” one that led to the Demons’ first touchdown, an 11-yard scoring scamper by quarterback Dakota Stonehouse, and another that served as a momentum quasher on a third-quarter Bulldog drive ” were clearly the difference.

At least in Palisade head coach John Arledge’s eyes.

“Turnovers are what hurt us,” he told a congregation of media after a lengthy postgame talk with his players.

Still, a gamble-filled day under the sunny Grand Junction skies could easily have swung in the Bulldogs’ favor.

With their smashmouth brand of ball churning out 229 yards on the ground and converting four of six fourth-down plays, Palisade rebounded from an early 12-0 deficit.

Glenwood put the host squad in that hole with its quick-strike, spread offensive attack.

Five minutes and 24 seconds after Stonehouse’s opening score, which came with 9:47 left in the first quarter, Stonehouse hit Kevin Screen in stride with a long pass up the sideline for a 55-yard TD connection.

Travis Fehlman blocked Clay Hawkins’ extra-point try on the Demons’ first score and a two-point conversion try came up short on the second to account for the awkward score.

Palisade got on the board on the next drive, marching 69 yards on five plays to find the end zone with 2:30 left in the opening frame. Aaron Wagler’s 10-yard scoring run served as the capper.

Stalling on its next drive, Glenwood settled for a 27-yard field goal from Hawkins to make it 15-7.

The teams traded unfruitful drives before the Bulldogs knotted things up with a 1-yard TD run by Appling that polished off an eight-play, 44-yard scoring march. Wagler added a conversion run to send the game into halftime deadlocked.

Long drives and defense dominated the second half as Glenwood eventually broke free for a score with 2:15 left in the third quarter when Michael Hudson found daylight in busting loose for a 28-yard scoring scamper as the Demons capitalized on an Appling fumble that gave them the ball at midfield.

Fehlman again found a hole up the middle, though, to block his second extra-point kick of the afternoon and leave Glenwood up 21-15.

Palisade responded with a back-breaking 17-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ate up almost eight minutes of clock and featured a pair of fourth-down conversions.

Fehlman busted into the end zone from 1 yard out ” and added the extra point ” to put the Bulldogs up 22-21 with 6:17 left in the fourth.

In a series that epitomized the contrast between the teams’ offensive styles, Glenwood took just 1 minute and 24 seconds to wrestle the lead back.

Stonehouse completed passes to Hudson, Riley and then pinballed his way to a 31-yard run that set up a 3-yard TD scamper by Hudson to put the Demons up 29-22.

The Glenwood defense, no doubt worn down by Palisade’s ball-control offense, took over from there.

With 4:53 to go, the Bulldogs took over at their own 20 with the day’s fate in the balance.

Four plays and three yards into the drive, Palisade pulled another fourth-down miracle out of its hat when Appling hit Matthew Young over the middle with a 28-yard pass.

The Bulldogs’ fifth roll of the dice ” and the fourth successful one ” on fourth down came as no shock to Glenwood’s coaching staff.

“I wasn’t surprised,” defensive coordinator Neil Goluba said. “They’re very confident in their offense, confident they can get a chunk of yards when they need to.”

Sure enough, a fourth-down play decided the game seven plays later with the Bulldogs pushed back to the Glenwood 48 after consecutive sacks by Aaron Zancanella.

Facing fourth-and-23, the Bulldogs’ luck ran out. With Zancanella in his face, Appling heaved a pass off target, giving possession back to the Demons for a pair of game-icing kneels by Stonehouse, whose confidence in his team never wavered.

“We believe in each other,” said the quarterback, whose team is now 8-0 overall and to 6-0 in the 3A WSL. “We play for each other. The coaches had a great defensive scheme and we had a great week of practice to get ready for the game. We played well.”

Stonehouse finished with a stat line typical of one of the state’s top passers, completing 17 of 28 passes for 224 yards while rushing for 52. Michael Hudson added 63 yards on just eight carries. Screen hauled in four catches for 84 yards and Riley four for 73.

Fehlman paced Palisade with 106 yards rushing on 18 carries. Wagler added 61 yards on 18 totes for the Bulldogs, who hope to see Glenwood again in the postseason.

“This is just a scrimmage,” said Arledge, whose team dropped to 8-1 overall and to 6-1 in the 3A WSL. “They won the scrimmage. The real one’s coming up. I’d rather win a state title than win a scrimmage.”

Whether or not these teams meet again down the line, Saturday’s test should serve both well come the postseason.

“This is the kind of game that’s important for both teams,” Whitworth said. “To play four quarters with the game undecided at the end. It’s good for both teams to know we can play and be effective for four quarters against a good football team.”

For a pair of teams outscoring foes by an average of more than 20 points a game, a test is exactly what they needed.

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