Up by 37 points in the fourth quarter, the Montrose Indians were cruising to their 4th win of the season. The offense was humming to a clear tune and the defense was a stonewall, not to be unturned.
Despite the Indians’ dominant play, and several big play highlights throughout, in what perhaps was the most electrifying moment of the night didn’t come until just a little under four minutes into the fourth quarter.
Senior lineman Raul Martinez, in one of the rarest plays anyone ever sees on a football field, scooped up the short kickoff just shy of the midfield, and sprinted his way past every single Grand Junction Central defender.
Martinez went untouched into the endzone, capping a 60-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, putting a bow on the Indians’ 55-12 win over the Warriors on Senior Night.
“That was awesome, wasn’t it?,” coach Brett Mertens said postgame. “Raul has been one of the absolute foundations of our team the last three years… it couldn’t happen to a better kid. It’s a lineman’s dream to be able to score a touchdown, so for him to be able to do that on Senior Night is something that he’ll never forget.”
The three-year varsity starter electrified the Indians bench and crowd, sending a rippling pulse of cheers that echoed throughout the stadium.
It was a memorable moment, and not just for those involved from afar with the strange 2020 season, beset by postponement and later revived by CHSAA, but an Indians roster and senior class who were clamoring to play this fall. Fourteen Indian seniors were competing in what was (likely) their final home game.
“We were just trying to focus on giving our kids a good night tonight and a fun experience for Senior Night, and I think we were able to do that,” Mertens said. “A lot of smiles, a lot of seniors made plays and some special things happened.”
“... I was really proud of them for just relishing the moment and enjoying it. It’s something that they’ll never forget.”
Beyond Martinez, a bevy of Indian seniors were given a chance to contribute in the win. Junior quarterback Bridger Kurtz completed a 14-yard pass to senior Noah Lambert, and on the same drive, following an Indians 8-yard touchdown run, senior Anthony Ball came on for the extra point and converted.
Senior kicker Jake Green was flawless on Friday, converting all six of his points after attempts.
Also, senior Tristan Cramer made some memorable defensive plays, and Keagan Goodwin, who started the game but left after the first quarter, completed three passes for 42 yards and had a passing touchdown called back on an Indians penalty.
But Goodwin, after an interception, rebounded quickly and marched the Indians down the field for a touchdown on their second possession of the game, capped off by a 3-yard score from Ethan Hartman.
And senior running back Trent Blundell, in his fourth multi-touchdown game of the season, rushed for 76 yards on seven carries, including a 45-yard touchdown run where he put a Warrior defender on skates near the goal line.
On the next Montrose possession, Blundell took a screen pass from Kurtz 52 yards to the endzone, outrunning a lone defender down the sideline for the score.
The highlight plays and chuck gains helped Montrose gain 287 yards of first-half offense, score 28 points in the second quarter and head into halftime with a 35-6 lead.
The closest the Warriors came to usurping the Indians came during that seismic second quarter. Spotted at the Montrose 18, Central quarterback Devin Hickey threw a perfect spiral to a Warrior receiver, who juggled it but came down with the grab in the endzone. Central went for the two-point conversion, but Hickey’s pass was incomplete.
Juniors Ethan Hartman and Austin Griffin also found success offensively against the Warrior defense, scoring twice on the ground, once more through the air and combining for 81 total yards (33 rushing, 47 receiving).
Griffin rushed for 55 yards and a score on five carries.
Several teams throughout the state had games postponed or canceled due to quarantines. The Indians, however, were able to complete the six-game regular season, despite having players quarantined throughout the season.
“As a team, we were able to play every week, and that’s something that we should be proud of — this town should be proud of,” Mertens said,” and I just really want to thank our administrative team for supporting football in this time because not every school got to play football this fall.”
The win moved Montrose to 4-2 on the season, and despite the pair of losses, there remains an opening for the Indians to secure one of the eight playoff berths. Coming into Friday, the Indians ranked ninth in the CHSAA seeding index, one spot away from making the cut. The next closest team with two losses before Friday’s slight of games was Erie, who was in 16th.
Montrose, heading into a weekend of uncertainty, understands, at this point, that the decision is out of their control. It’s why, if the team qualifies (or doesn’t make it and matches up with another non-qualifier for a game next week), they’re likely to be ready for practice on Monday.
“It’s going to be awfully close,” Mertens said of the team’s playoff hopes. “If we end up in, I can tell you what, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of teams that really want to play us. If we end up just out, things go that way sometimes. We’ll see what happens.”
• The Indians should find out if they made the playoff cut on Sunday, and as Mertens alluded to, it’s going to be close considering how Montrose is regarded in a stacked 4A class. The Indians two losses came on the road to (as of Friday) 4-0 Palmer Ridge and 5-0 Ponderosa, with the latter by a late fourth quarter touchdown. In short, it seems like the selection committee is aware Montrose has played like a top 10 team all season.
• The Warriors finished the season winless, and the Indians defense played a big role in making that the case. Bode Greiner and Ashden Oberg performed up to par Friday, and helped limit Central to 165 yards of offense through four quarters. Also, Greiner picked up a fumble and took it 44 yards for a score. Central’s leading rusher Friday was Santana Martinez, who had 66 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
• In addition to the seniors mentioned above, Camden Hassell, Kyler Bronec, Colten Brueggeman, Ryan Ruggles, Trevaughn McCoy, Eli Evans and Jack Christian were honored pre-game.
Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press