A Durango Demons football team (No. 2 in 3A) that scored 112 points and throttled its first two opponents via shutouts to start the 2021 season was welcomed with, well, a rude awakening at Montrose High School Friday night.
Behind a stout defensive line, a handful of timely defensive stops and a tour de force rushing performance, the Indians (3-0) pummeled their way to a 39-7 victory over the Demons.
“I gotta credit them, man,” said senior defensive lineman Ashden Oberg of Montrose’s defense. “They work really hard… it’s all of us. It’s all the linebackers, and the defense has been working really hard together.”
It paid off Friday. The Demons (2-1), led by former Montrose football head coach Todd Casebier, had rushed for 724 yards in their first two games of 2021.
Friday night, Durango ran for 126 yards on 39 attempts (3.2 yards per carry), and 17 of those yards came with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Durango’s Nate Messier, who rushed for 288 yards on 12 carries the past two weeks, had just 40 on 20 carries against the Indians. He scored the team’s only touchdown to cap a 12-play drive — a 2-yard rush to trim Montrose’s lead to 14-7 in the second quarter — but found little room with Oberg and company chasing him down and clogging lanes.
“Defensively, it’s about effort and passion, and our kids are playing with a lot of effort and passion right now on defense,” Montrose head coach Brett Mertens said. “...We’ve got a lot of seniors on defense this year, and when you start that many seniors on defense — they’re an experienced crew, they’ve had a lot of playing time, and it’s starting to show when they start flying around and hitting people like that.”
Oberg and linebacker Bode Greiner both had some pad-cracking hits against Messier, running back Zach Haber and Durango quarterback Tyler Harms. Montrose, too, consistently disrupted plays, forcing Harms out of the pocket.
A fake punt at the start of the second quarter on 4th and 9 in Montrose territory was thwarted quickly by the Indians, forcing the turnover on downs. The clutch play led to Montrose’s eight-play, 70 yard drive to take a 14-0 lead.
“I’d like to credit that to Bode Greiner,” Oberg said of the team’s intensity on defense. “He’s a leader of that defense and he’s always in there and helping us out. He gets us all going.”
Greiner’s spark likely helped the team’s offense, too, which rushed for 313 yards and five touchdowns. Four of those came courtesy of Austin Griffin. He scored from six, two and one (twice) yards out on his goal-line carries and again crossed the century mark, with 158 rushing yards on 22 attempts.
The slippery Ethan Hartman and his big-play ability was again a highlight. He had 35 of his 81 rushing yards on a massive second quarter play that put Montrose in Durango territory. On the same drive, his 6-yard run on 3rd and 1 at the Demons’ 11 helped set up a Griffin touchdown.
But Hartman’s best play came on a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown to start the third quarter. Hartman bounced to the outside and, as he’s known to do, sped past Durango defenders, tiptoed the sideline and crossed the goal line to give Montrose a 27-7 cushion.
Fittingly, Tayne Ila gave the Montrose crowd an encore. On 2nd and 8, Ila barreled through Durango’s defense, and with the secondary collapsed, Ila darted for the endzone untouched to cap an 80-yard touchdown run.
Ila hasn’t gotten many reps at running back this season — he’s moved to guard with Raul Rascon out — but he’s shown he’s capable. He had 453 rushing yards a season ago and delivered when called upon on Friday.
“He’s a great teammate, a great kid,” Mertens said of Ila. “I wish we had 10 more just like him. It’s a pleasure to coach him. It really is.”
Torrie Eckerman, like Ila, played sparingly at running back on Friday, but made the most of his touches, running for 59 yards on seven carries. Montrose quarterback Gage Wareham threw for 34 yards on a night the Indians didn’t need much from the passing game.
That wasn’t the same for Durango, who asked Harms to attempt 22 passes with the team in catchup mode. Harms completed 10-of-22 passes for 110 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions (Gabe Miller and Ila caught Harms’ errant throws).
“We were just doing our job,” Ila said. “Not worrying about doing everybody else’s — just doing your own and going towards the ball until the whistle blows. Playing until the whistle on every play I think is a big part of (our success).”
Montrose (ranked No. 4 in 4A) heads to No. 10 (3A) Palisade (2-1) next Thursday with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press