The Indians gutted out a Friday night homecoming win in front of a packed crowd thanks in part to a pair of dynamic touchdown runs by running backs Trent Blundell and Emmert Kastendieck.
Blundell avoided a plethora of Fruita defenders en route to a 67-yard score in the second quarter before the speedy Kastendieck sprinted to the end zone with a 74 rushing TD in the third period.
These scores gave the Montrose High School football team (5-0) a two-possession lead before the Indians held on to win, 21-14, against its rivals, the Fruita Monument Wildcats (2-3).
“There’s nothing better; the lights, the energy, it’s just unmatched,” Blundell said. “You can’t find anything like it in high school.”
“It wasn’t always pretty but we did enough to get it done and that’s the main thing,” said coach Brett Mertens, who guided Montrose to its second-consecutive 5-0 start.
“I told them to enjoy the win because they don’t come easy.”
The Indians did this in front of a Montrose stadium that didn’t have one empty seat.
“I’ve never seen it like that, so that was cool,” Mertens said.
But Montrose probably didn’t want to have the start it had to begin the game.
On the Wildcats’ first possession, the visitors went 75 yards in 13 plays, which included converting a pair of fourth downs, to take a 7-0 edge.
Despite the Indians trailing for the first time this season, they didn’t seem bothered by it on their first drive of the game. The hosts countered with their own long drive, which took almost nine minutes which bled into the second quarter, with fullback Cole Simmons scoring on a 3-yard run to tie the contest up.
Fruita’s offense didn’t seem to miss a beat on its next possession as the Wildcats started at their own 24-yard line before getting deep into Montrose territory.
But the Indians defense held up, forcing a turnover on downs at the Montrose 33-yard line with about two minutes remaining before halftime.
On the home’s team first possession, quarterback Keagan Goodwin handed the ball off to Kastendieck who gave the rock to Blundell on the reserve, who then took the ball to the house to give the Indians their first lead of the game.
“When coach called that (play), I knew it was going to be big,” Blundell said. “I trusted my teammates and for the holes to open up. Once I saw the hole open up, I took it.”
Blundell had to work for the score as once he got into the Fruita secondary, multiple defenders tried to take him down. He was able to shake free while getting an extra block from Kastendieck in the secondary who was running a fake run on the other side.
“Honestly, I was already down the field and I saw Trent just cutting so I thought, ‘Maybe, I’ll be able to help him out a little bit,’” said Kastendieck with a laugh.
Fruita tried to answer on its next drive. Despite getting within field goal range, the Wildcats kicker missed the attempt right before halftime.
Coming into the second half, both teams struggled to move the ball as each one traded punts.
But, on Montrose’s second possession, Kastendieck scored the go-ahead touchdown after getting the ball, bouncing it outside and dashing into the end zone.
“We like the fact that we have multiple backs that can hurt you,” Mertens said. “Defenses can’t just key in just one kid. The two big plays were the difference in the game.”
Meanwhile, Fruita was able to move the ball effectively, but couldn’t come with any points to show from it.
That was the case on the Wildcats’ drive following the Kastendieck touchdown. The visiting team marched down to the red zone but coughed the ball up which was recovered by Blundell.
The Montrose offense wasn’t able to do much for the rest of the game as it had only two first downs in the fourth quarter.
Fruita scored its final touchdown in the final period as the Wildcats went 67 yards with the score coming from a 19-yard passing TD.
The Indians weren’t able to do much on its next drive as after four plays they were forced to punt. But the snap was low, which meant punter Aaron Dietrich fall on top of the ball to stop Fruita from potentially scooping it up and tying the ballgame up.
Still, the Wildcats had a short field to work with as they started at the MHS 37-yard line.
But Fruita hurts its own effort as an offensive holding penalty pushed the drive back.
Montrose has able to capitalize on it as the Indians forced a 4th-and-17 with about two minutes left in the game. The Wildcats went for the pass to keep the drive alive but Dietrich snagged the pass out of the air to help secure the win.
“We’re learning to fight through adversity,” Blundell said. “We just got to keep our heads focused and keep grinding away at this season.”
Montrose will start Metro league play by hosting Heritage (4-1) at 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11.
Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.