Courtesy Matt Meyer
During the first half Friday night, the Fruita Monument High School football team struggled to get traction on the ground against Grand Junction.
Fullback Treyton Queen was stifled and running back Braeden Graham was limited until the break.
Up 14-7 at half, the Wildcats broke the game open with runs off the right tackle, rattling off 16 unanswered points en route to a 30-7 victory over the Tigers at Stocker Stadium to win the Black and Blue Trophy.
Fruita’s 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive lineman, Trey Dickerson, set the edge for the Wildcats and opened up all kinds of space for Graham. The running back regularly surged forward for double-digit gains in the second half and finished with 228 yards on the ground — 142 after halftime.
“It was so much fun tonight,” Graham said. “They made perfect blocks for me to where I could get outside and get some yards. It’s just super exciting for us as a team, defeating a rival like Junction when everybody in the valley has been talking about them.”
Fruita Monument coach Todd Casebier broke down the offensive line play a bit more. He said although the right side of the line was outstanding at giving Graham room on the outside, there’s work to be done on the left side of the line.
Part of Fruita’s success, Casebier said, is its ability to change directions when running and keeping opponents off balance.
“I thought the right side did a lot better job,” Casebier said. “We weren’t very good on the left side today. And (Grand Junction) did a good job taking away our fullback. Braeden’s a good player, obviously, and everybody knows it and he kinda carried the load. But overall, we’ve got to clean up some stuff.
“We made some mistakes tonight. The defense did a great job. Great job by our defensive coaches, defensive players, but our offense was pretty average. Again, you’ll take a win anytime you can get it, especially in this game, but we gotta get better on offense.”
The Wildcats (3-0) started slowly on offense, punting to the Tigers (1-1) after their first two drives. Grand Junction converted on its first offensive series, grinding out short runs with play-action opportunities for quarterback Clay Payne. In fact, the Tigers’ first score came when the right-handed quarterback rolled to his left and found running back Hunter Tobiasson on an underneath route for a 9-yard touchdown.
But after that, Fruita’s defense locked down. More pressure came off the edge, they stiffened against the run and a heads-up special teams play set up Fruita’s first score.
The Tigers lined up to punt and the snap was slightly off target. The punter bobbled the ball and attempted to run for the first down, but was swarmed by the Wildcats.
Fruita started on GJ’s
33-yard line and used a series of runs to set up a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Zach Rush to tie the game.
The Wildcats opened the second quarter with another long drive, but Grand Junction picked off Rush’s pass into the end zone to take back some momentum.
That’s where Fruita’s defense really turned the tide. A penalty backed up the Tigers and the Wildcats forced a series of incompletions.
After another rough punt, Fruita drove 51 yards for a touchdown, capped by a
16-yard score from Queen.
The mantra of the Wildcats defense this season has been “212,” signifying 212 degrees, the boiling point of water. Defensive end Kaden Jolley said the group started slow, but honed in as the rivalry game went on.
“I felt like we definitely got to 212,” Jolley said. “Maybe not right at the beginning — maybe 210 or 211 there — but in the second quarter we got up to where we needed to be.”
Graham scored on a 28-yard run on Fruita’s first drive of the second half, Marcus Mosnes added a 25-yard field goal to start the fourth, then Graham added the final touchdown with 2 minutes, 37 seconds remaining.