Before Friday night’s second-round playoff game against Denver South, Montrose High School football players and coaches figured the Ravens, with a pretty potent offense, would present a challenge to a stout Montrose front and defensive secondary.

That expectation took a backseat quick. Ethan Hartman, looking as shifty as ever, took a handoff 48 yards to the end zone to give Montrose a 35-0 lead with four minutes remaining in the second quarter.

It was almost too easy as Hartman’s score was one of eight Montrose touchdowns in a 56-19 rout of Denver South.

“I looked up and couldn’t believe it to be honest,” Montrose coach Brett Mertens said of the team’s 35-0 lead. “What (Denver South) were able to do in the second half offensively was more like them. We had them out of rhythm there early, had a couple sacks and a pick. We had a great start to the game and that set the tone.”

For the majority of the night, Montrose’s defense contained South quarterback Joseph Capra, who sped out of collapsed boxes and tucked it for keepers. He rushed for 12 yards in the first half on four carries and was 5-for-13 for 41 yards.

The Indians’ Gabe Miller read Capra perfectly on South’s first possession, resulting in an interception which led to Montrose’s second score — a 17-yard touchdown run by quarterback Gage Wareham on a keeper.

The Ravens compiled 97 total yards in the first half, 40 of which came on a 12-play drive that gave them their first touchdown of the night. It barely dented Montrose’s nearly 30-point lead, which was aided by the team scoring on five straight drives.

“Even when (Capra) did get out of the pocket, he was getting so much pressure that he wasn’t able to throw his best ball,” Montrose defensive back Gabe Miller said. “Our DB’s were staying on him pretty good and it all worked out in the end.”

Capra and the South offense had their best drive of the night to start the second half. After 19 plays and 89 yards downfield, Capra connected with wide receiver Dominic McGath for a nine-yard touchdown pass.

But Montrose’s offense scored again on the ensuing drive, a 10-yard touchdown run by Torrie Eckerman to extend the lead to 42-13.

After an 11-play drive that resulted in a turnover on downs for South, Wareham threw a perfectly placed ball to Hartman down the seam for a 78-yard touchdown that made it 49-13. No Raven defender was within 10 feet of Hartman throughout the play.

“They were playing man coverage with no safety,” Mertens said. “We tried to take advantage of what they gave us. Gage has done a nice job of completing those balls that are there and when you can throw like that, it forces teams to play you more honestly.”

Hartman was Montrose’s most productive offensive player Friday night, totaling 267 yards from scrimmage on 12 touches. He ran for 35 and 48 yards on his touchdown runs and racked up 139 rushing yards on just eight carries.

His teammates, Blake Griffin and Miller, also carried the load. Griffin opened the game’s scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run and later added his second score of the night, a 13-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter.

In the first quarter, Miller helped set up Hartman’s first touchdown, rushing for 27 yards into South territory.

“We knew we had to be firing and that they had potential,” Hartman said. “We came out and hit ‘em and the scoreboard reflected it. It was fun.”

The Indians’ defense provided some hits, too, as Luke Barney, Bode Greiner, Ashden Oberg and Dmarion Lopez stalled South’s rushers at the line of scrimmage. The Ravens’ top running back, Chevelle Early, ran for 78 yards on 14 carries. Nineteen of those yards came on the Ravens’ final drive.

Capra’s best connection was with McGath, who caught eight balls for 61 yards. South’s other top wideout, Rashad Caldwell, had five catches for 32 yards.

“(South) had a lot of yards in the second half, but I thought everybody did their job,” Mertens said. “They understood the gameplan and executed it pretty well and I thought our defensive coordinators did a nice job. Coach (Jake) Appling called a great game. The coaching staff was prepared, the kids were prepared and the result speaks for itself.”

Wareham’s first touchdown pass of the night came after Barney, lined up at tight end, executed a slant route and barreled his way into the end zone from 12 yards out.

Montrose improves to 11-0 and will host another playoff game next week. They’ll welcome No. 8 Fountain-Fort Carson, which defeated No. 9 Golden 41-0 on Friday.

The Indians’ defense will be tasked with stopping a Fountain-Fort Carson offense that has scored 40 or more points in four of its past five games.

“I think we have one of the best defenses in the state,” Barney said. “We perform week in and week out. I’m super proud of us. We gotta keep this going.”

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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