After the Montrose defense was all bend, but don’t break Friday night, head coach Brett Mertens joked after the game that the goal was for the D to not bend either.
However, the No. 13 Brighton Bulldogs pulled a few surprises on offense which took the fourth-rated Indians some time to adjust to.
It worked out as the Montrose football team held Brighton to two scores, which occurred in the last two minutes of each half. And the offense scored four times to help the Indians win, 28-13, in the first round of the state playoffs.
“We gave up more yards, honestly, than we would like,” said Mertens, who won his third playoff game with the Indians. “But we made enough plays in the red zone for the most part.”
Montrose’s four touchdowns came from just as many players as fullback Tayne Ila and Cole Simmons scored while running backs Eli Evans and Emmert Kastendieck also found the promised land.
Another successful rushing game was, once again, largely credited to the Montrose’s offensive line. The O-line’s goal was to have no mental mistakes and help create holes for anyone carrying the ball, said lineman Ben Robuck, who even carried the ball in the second half.
“We went out there and pretty much did that today,” he said.
However, Ila was the ball carrier for the first two-and-a-half quarters. But he injured his leg midway through the third quarter and was done for the night. This was no doubt sad for Ila, who injured his leg earlier this season against Heritage, and came back for the Aurora Central game last week.
“He stepped up for us. He’s a sophomore,” Mertens said of Ila. “He was our bell cow for us there.”
Brighton started the game with the ball and, from the get-go, the team showed a new facet of its offense. The Bulldogs went to a Wildcat offense with five wide-out, running receiver sweeps to both sides.
The strategy fooled Montrose at first, as the initial play from scrimmage went for 21 yards. But as the Bulldogs made it to midfield, the Indians wised up to the defense and clamped down, forcing a Brighton punt.
The Montrose offense then got the ball with about six minutes left in the first quarter and went on a slow, methodical drive that bled into the second period.
The Indians went 87 yards in 11 plays with the touchdown coming on a 3-yard Ila run.
Following the two teams trading punts, the Bulldogs once again got into Montrose territory. But, with the Bulldogs facing a fourth-and-five at the Indians’ 32-yard line, the visitors went for it through the air but failed when the pass fell incomplete.
Montrose then got the football with about four minutes remaining before halftime. Quarterback Keagan Goodwin helped set up the score as he had some running room for a 29-yard run before being brought down at the Bulldog 30-yard line.
However, three plays later, Montrose had its own fourth-and-five at the 25 and went for it. The hosts’ gutsy call proved fruitful as Evans got the ball on the sweep and found the endzone.
But the Indians’ kick was no good, giving them a 13-0 lead with 1:37 left in the second period.
Brighton was able to enter the locker room on a high note thanks in part to a 50-yard kickoff return brought down to Montrose’s 30.
Four plays later, the Bulldogs scored on a 1-yard run to cut the deficit to 13-7 before halftime.
Montrose received the ball to start the second half but turned the ball over on downs after getting into Brighton’s side of the field.
Once again, the Bulldogs’ offense broke into Montrose territory after a 30-yard run on the team’s second play from scrimmage.
Although Brighton brought the ball down to Montrose’s 26-yard line, the visiting team petered out and decided to go for it, facing a 4th-and-12. But the Bulldogs’ drive ended with a Jorge Cadena interception.
The Montrose offense then put together another scoring drive. This one bled into the fourth quarter as Simmons barrelled into the endzone from seven yards out.
The Indians decided to go for a two-point conversion, successfully converting thanks to Goodwin finding Kastendieck out in the flat. The eight points gave Montrose some cushion, 21-7, with about 11 minutes remaining in the ballgame.
Brighton almost cut the lead to one possession after getting the ball down to the hosts’ 10-yard line. But the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs following an incomplete pass.
The Indians responded with their final TD of the game as Kastendieck, who shrugged off a few Brighton tackles, broke free around midfield to score on a 46-yard run.
The Bulldogs found the endzone late after another big gain on a kickoff return. But Brighton’s night ended with the extra point try banging off the upright.
“This was great,” Simmons said. “... Our confidence was a little down the past few weeks, but I think we’re rolling now.”
Montrose (10-1) will now face the winner of No. 12 Golden and fifth-ranked Pueblo West, whose game starts at 1 p.m. today.
Montrose will play on the road if the lower seed, Golden, wins, as the state tournament site is based on which team has fewer home playoff games. If the Cyclones win, that means the Indians will be at home since both units hosted a contest and Montrose is the higher seed.
Home or away, the Indians are confident against each potential opponent.
“We love to play at home but we’ll play away, too,” Simmons said.
“I don’t really mind where we’re playing,” said Robuck. “... I know we travel well. I’m looking forward to playing whoever we have in the next round.”