Doggone it

Palisade pulls off another close win against Bulldogs

Two plays in 12 seconds.

That's all it took for the Palisade High School football team to change a seven-point deficit against Moffat County into a one-point, 37-36, win.

The Moffat County defense had Palisade down to its last down with 57 seconds remaining. It was fourth and five from the Palisade 39-yard line. The home team had just come back to score three unanswered touchdowns and had stuffed the visitors three straight plays.

Then the Moffat County sideline and stands let out a collective gasp.

Palisade's Alex Swanson ran a quick-slant route past the Moffat defense, caught a pass from Jake Watt and sprinted untouched for 61-yards.

The play took nine seconds.

Still down by one, Palisade coach Todd Casebier decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win.

"I felt like we had regained all of the momentum," he said. "So we had to go for the win."

It takes confidence to make that call. It was a confidence that comes from winning a state championship last year and winning two other games in the final moments this season.

Kyle Britton took a pitch and his team on his shoulders. He barreled into the end zone to put his team up with 48 seconds left.

The play took three seconds.

It seemed like an eternity for both teams.

"I knew we had it," Swanson said, who burned Moffat County twice on pass plays of 47 and 56 yards. "Our O-line had done the job all night so I knew it would happen."

Moffat County had three-quarters of a minute to make an outstanding play of their own. A 20-yard gain by Kellan Moore and a seven-yard run by Scott Garoutte made it look like there might be some hope. The Blue and White offense was on Palisade 38-yard line with 14 seconds left when the Moffat bench was flagged for a 15-yard penalty. It appeared as if the coaching staff thought a time out had been called so they went onto the field and were flagged.

The penalty stopped Moffat County's chances for a comeback.

"All we had to do was watch the pass," Moffat's Stetson Otero said. "I knew it was coming, but Palisade found a way. Just as they have all year."

In a game that had a score that couldn't get any closer, the numbers and on-the-field play was just as even.

Neither defense could get a stop.

Both teams punted once. Each team had three turnovers. Each offense scored three unanswered touchdowns. Palisade unofficially rushed for 263 yards on 42 carries. Moffat County carried the ball 41 times for 264.

There were three ties and five lead changes.

"We ended up with the ball last," Casebier said. "That might have been the difference."

In a finish that Swanson said was up there with one of the best he'd ever seen, it looked as if both Bulldog teams had it won several times.

Palisade went up by two touchdowns in the third quarter after two Derek Duran interceptions led to Jason Popick touchdowns of 15 and six yards.

The Maroon Bulldogs regained some momentum right before the half. Britton tied the game at 15 on a 10-yard reception with12 seconds left in the half.

The Blue Bulldogs showed they have some fight in the fourth quarter.

Moffat drove the ball through the Palisade defense 64 yards in 2:07 to get with in 29-21. A high snap on the extra point led to a missed extra point.

On Palisade's next drive Moffat stopped the Maroon machine on third down for the first time of the night. With 6:37 left the No. 3 ranked Bulldogs regained the ball. Daniel Tague and Garoutte carried most of the load. Tague was in for an injured Kellan Moore, and he scored a touchdown on a 20-yard pitch with four minutes left. The two-point conversion evened the game at 29 each.

"Scotty had a great second half, and his runs up the middle opened it up for our option and pitches late," coach Kip Hafey said. "Scott played his butt off."

Garoutte had 115 yards on 19 carries in the second half. He gained 72 yards in the fourth quarter.

"I wanted to win this game so bad I would do anything," he said. "Our line gave me some room, and I went after it."

After Tague's score tied it up Moffat County's swagger reached a season-high when junior Ricky Willis crushed Britton on the kickoff and forced the ball loose. Senior Cody Markham recovered the ball, and the blue-clad Bulldogs had 30 yards left to complete its comeback. Duran carried the ball into the end zone on a five-yard keeper with 2:07 left to put his team up. The extra point was good, and the underdogs went up 36-29.

"I have to credit to Moffat because they didn't give up and they came back in their own right," Casebier said. "They fought back."

But Moffat's fight didn't knock out Palisade.

"We told each other it wasn't over," Swanson said. "We had done it before, we could do it again."

The game showed why the teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the state.

"We sure gave everybody a show," Hafey said. "I guess you have to be up by more on Palisade when the game comes down to the end."

Things won't get much easier for Moffat County next week as they travel to Rifle. The Bears lost on a last minute play to Palisade 35-31 last week. A loss would drop the Bears down to fourth in the Western Slope League.

"We can grieve for the weekend but we have to comeback Monday and forget about it," Garoutte said.

That was a common rally cry in the locker room.

"This game doesn't end our season," Hafey said. "There's a lot of football left."

Both coaches hoped they could meet up again down the road.

"It would be great to meet these guys in the championship," Casebier said. "What a game it could be and it would say something about our league."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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