Riley Barnhill and his Montrose High School teammates are trying to take tonight’s contest like it’s just another game, but even they admitted they can’t contain their excitement for a homecoming matchup against their rivals, Fruita Monument.

The Indians (4-0) are looking to stop the Wildcats (2-2) spoiling the homecoming football game as they face off at 7 tonight at home.

“We try to take it like it’s one game at a time, but since it’s homecoming, we don’t want to lose that one,” Barnhill said. “There’s a little bit more pressure on that game.”

MHS coach Brett Mertens said even though the week leading up to the contest is fun, it also means “a couple of more distractions” for the players.

But contests like this upcoming one bring out the fans in droves, he added.

“Montrose is a great football town. … It’s a cool deal for our kids and our program,” Mertens said.

He praised his athletes’ composure because they’ve stayed focused on playing the Wildcats.

“They know they need to focus on the game and not worry about the other stuff,” said Mertens.

But when it comes to this matchup, the Montrose coach said he knows Fruita will present a challenge. He said jokingly that he wished the Indians would play an easier opponent for the homecoming game, but then again, the team’s schedule is quite full with difficult competition.

The challenge for Montrose is to stop Fruita’s rushing game.

Both teams have the same offensive identity, predicated on running the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage, Mertens added.

“Neither team will throw the ball often,” he said. “Whoever can establish the line of scrimmage and the battle up front will win the game.”

After four games, Fruita averages around 250 rushing yards per game, but have only managed four touchdowns on the ground. Meanwhile, Montrose scored 14 of their 15 offensive TDs rushing the ball.

However, the Indians have struggled on offense a bit in recent weeks, when penalties killed potential scoring drives.

Mertens said he knows there’s “a theme” each week of the offense trying to eliminate such mistakes, which has meant the coaches continue to reinforce how to prevent those kinds of errors.

Montrose and Fruita have two common opponents in both Grand Junction and Grand Junction Central. Both teams went 2-0 against the Junction schools with similar-looking scores.

The Indians won 44-20 and 35-3 against the Warriors and Tigers, respectively. Meanwhile, the Wildcats defeated the Warriors, 35-21, and Grand Junction, 31-0.

The Montrose defense is confident about limiting the Fruita ground game after stopping Palisade’s during the team’s most recent game. The Indians allowed the Bulldogs to rush for 80 yards on 30 attempts.

“We’re feeling really good,” Barnhill said. “It’s just built on everyone trusting each other to do (their) job.”

Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.

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