Montrose got off to an early lead and maintained it through the first half, but in the final quarter, with the Indians leading 27-7, Rock Canyon came back strong.
But it was too little too late, and the Indians prevailed with a final score of 27-21.
After the game, senior Kordell Bradshaw, one of the team’s five captains, said the team was eager for the win.
“We were ready for [the game]. It was one of the big games, and it helped us boost our season and our energy in practice,” he said.
The “zero week” game against Rock Canyon gave the Indians little practice time, and they had to play the non-league game early, since it didn’t fit in their regular schedule.
The team wanted to focus on minimizing their mistakes against this big 4A team, Casebier said.
“There is nothing like a game atmosphere in terms of conditions,” he said. “It gives us an advantage, because most people have not played yet.”
Overall, the team – especially the defense – played a physical game, Casebier said; the special teams were solid, he said, adding that he also liked how the team ran the ball and “took care of business.”
The game gave the team a place to work from, Casebier said. The team needs to practice tackling and other technical moves, and although he said he’s happy the boys were successful after all their hard work, the team has a long way to go.
The Indians didn’t make the playoffs last year, and broke a four-year tradition by not capturing the Southwestern League title, but the coach had little to say about the difficult season besides emphasizing the need for improvement.
“It was not a great year. We need to play better, and we need to coach better,” he said. “As the head coach, that starts with me.”
But the team has put in extra effort to overcome last year’s dismal showing, including lifting weights last winter and going to summer football camps.
“It has been a long road, and hopefully we will see the rewards,” Casebier said.
The team has close to 90 athletes in the program this season, he said, and a 50-man varsity squad, but the numbers are still down from last season.
“We have got to deal with it, and we have enough good guys to get the job done,” he said.
Although the season is still young, the team is showing signs of a good year, Casebier said, with good chemistry, a willingness to work hard, good linebackers and a strong offensive line.
Team captains are seniors Bradshaw, Del Oliver and Cole Panter, as well as juniors Drew Casebier and Blake Alexander.
“The coaches talk about leading by example, so I work as hard as I can in practice, and hope everyone follows what I do,” Bradshaw said.
The team has nine other seniors this season, giving it good depth, but Coach Casebier said he expects all the starters to lead.
The Indians will be on the road for the next two weeks, facing Piedra Vista on Friday, Sept. 2, and Glenwood Springs on Friday, Sept. 9, and then returning for the homecoming game on Tuesday, Sept. 16, against Steamboat Springs.
Casebier said he expects the Indians to have a better season this year, and that, in the many team huddles the Indians have after practice, he and the other coaches preach to the players to be accountable to themselves and to each other.
“If we do that, the wins will take care of themselves,” he said.