After Fruita quarterback Kade Bessert scrambled out of the pocket and scored a touchdown to put the Wildcats a field goal away from knotting the score in double overtime, it looked like the tightly contested contest between (6) Montrose and their rival counterpart would extend into a third sudden death series.
But instead of kicking a game-tying PAT, Fruita head coach Cameron Ross had different plans. He wanted the win, and opted for a two-point conversion.
The Wildcats, at the 3-yard line, set up in formation and snapped the ball to Bessert, but junior Bode Greiner barreled through the offensive line and pressured the quarterback, who pitched a desperation heave while grappled to Fruita standout Armony Trujillo. Trujillo took a few steps but was swarmed by a pair of Indian defenders at the 2-yard line, keeping him short of the pylon, helping Montrose seal the thrilling 28-27 overtime win.
“Being in Montrose, we know we’re tougher than Fruita and we know we’re tougher than anyone we play,” MHS running back Trent Blundell said postgame. “We just played our game and we knew we were going to stick them right there and that would be game.”
The clutch defensive stop capped a gritty affair at Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction on Friday between the Southwestern League rivals, and one that saw the Indians down 14-0 through nearly two quarters of play.
The Fruita defense seemed to be on its way to a repeat performance of last week (eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss), stuffing the Montrose backs throughout the first half and forced quarterback Keagan Goodwin into some tough throws. Goodwin shortened the deficit with a 1-yard touchdown QB sneak with 10 seconds before the half, but the Wildcats’ two-way efficiency forced the Indians to dig deep in the third and fourth quarters.
“Fruita played really well,” MHS coach Brett Mertens said. “Defensively, they caused us some serious problems tonight the way they flew around and were blitzing us and getting in the gaps.”
Trujillo, who scored from seven yards out in the second quarter to give Fruita their biggest lead of the night at 14-0, seemed to key in on every tackle defensively — he stuffed Blundell on a fourth and 2 at the Fruita 9 in the Indians’ first third quarter series — while finding gaps as a runner offensively, churning out yards to keep Fruita’s drives alive.
“That kid is a good player,” Mertens said of Trujillo, who rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns in Fruita’s win last week. “I bet if you look it up he broke 15 tackles tonight … hats off to him. He’s a heck of a football player.”
The story for the Indians’ defense flipped in the second half, a half where they held Fruita scoreless. Montrose forced a three-and-out on Fruita’s first second half drive and were later aided by Blundell and Tayne Ila on a nine-play drive by Fruita that included a 13-yard run from Trujillo. After a botched pitch to Trujillo from Bessert on second and 9, Ila flew towards Trujillo to secure the tackle and bury the Wildcats’ chances to extend the drive.
The Indians’ defensive prowess continued in the fourth when senior Tristan Cramer found a seam through the offensive line and tackled Fruita running back Espin Hernandez, who scored twice on the night (Hernandez opened the scoring with a 40-yard run in the first and later caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Bessert in overtime). The play forced Fruita into another 3rd and long, having to punt a play later after an incomplete pass from Bessert to Trujillo.
“I thought our defense — defensive coaches, defensive players — really stepped up. The second half was just phenomenal on their part,” Mertens said.
After Blundell scored late in the third to tie the game at 14-14, with 15 seconds left in the fourth, he returned a Fruita punt into Wildcat territory, but a block in the back from a Montrose player negated the play and nixed the Indians’ chances at a potential late game-winning field goal.
The SWL rivals went into overtime, with Fruita getting the first crack at taking the lead. Per high school rules — no game clock — Fruita was placed at the Montrose 10, and two plays later, Bessert rolled out to his right and delivered a dart to Hernandez who rolled out in the flat and pushed his way into the endzone.
In the next series, Fruita forced Montrose into a fourth and 1 with the game on the line. A Montrose runner worked his way into the pile, and looked to be short of the endzone marker. A pair of Wildcats players agreed, and prematurely celebrated the victory, jumping towards the sideline. But the referee signaled touchdown, and the score was tied with a good PAT from MHS kicker Jake Green.
Immediately after, Montrose was given a chance to take the lead, and on the first play, Blundell scampered to the left, evaded a defender and found the endzone on a 10-yard run for what turned out to be the game-winner.
During Montrose’s final stop, Cramer came up with another momentous play, forcing a 2-yard loss on the runner Trujillo to set up a lengthy third and 10, though Bessert scrambled to his left and maneuvered his way for the score moments later. Fruita was unable to convert on its two-point attempt a play later thanks to pressure from Greiner and other Indian defenders.
“He played really well,” said Mertens of Cramer’s overall play Friday night. “He’s coming along. He’s a kid that has a lot of potential and he’s a really good athletic kid and I think he’s going to cause problems for offenses down the road too … it’s good to see him get some confidence and get going.”
Though Montrose didn’t reach last week’s rushing totals (567 rushing yards) in the win against Fruita, Ila, Blundell and Ethan Hartman all picked up plus gains in the second half. Defensively, the Indians limited Trujillo to 22 rushing yards throughout the latter half of the contest.
“We clicked on something. I can’t tell you what, but we were electric in the second half,” Blundell said.
“We pride ourselves the past couple years being the Southwestern League champs,” Blundell later added. “... we always come into Stocker looking for a win and it just feels great.”
The 2-0 Indians will play the winless Grand Junction Tigers next Friday in Montrose at 7 p.m.