DENVER – The Montrose High School football team gave it their all, making it to the last game of the year.
And while the Indians’ historic 2013 season ended in disappointment Saturday, falling to the Pine Creek Eagles, 49-14, in the 4A state championship at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, back home, they remained champs.
The powerful Indian run attack, averaging 344 yards per game, was limited to just 171 yards, with an offense, led by junior Mike Rocha and senior Angelo Youngren, halted by a stiff Pine Creek defensive line.
Rocha ended the game with 84 yards on 21 carries and Youngren recorded 64 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for the Indians’ first score. MHS had fallen behind 14-0 in the first period. For the first time all season, a Montrose runner did not record 100 yards rushing in a game.
An impressive estimate of 1,800 Montrose fans attended the game, nearly twice the number representing Pine Creek (I can’t recall another time seeing so many people from Montrose outside of town). Before the game, dozens of Montrovians ate breakfast burritos and donuts in the parking lot, some arriving as early as 8 a.m., to start tailgating.
Late in the second quarter, a turnover resulted in a 93-yard Pine Creek touchdown drive sending the Indians to halftime down, 21-7.
“I thought we had a chance to tie the game and we didn’t do that. We didn’t get enough stops on defense,” said head coach Todd Casebier, when it was over. “They coached better and played better.”
To open the second half, Pine Creek had a pair of long touchdown runs, one for 59 yards and the other from 53 yards. The Indians managed to cut Pine Creek’s advantage with a 57-yard pass from quarterback Kameron DeVincentis to Youngren to make the score 35-14 in the third quarter.
The Eagles ended the game with 401 yards rushing and two more touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters to salt away the title.
On Monday, Casebier was named the Southwestern League Coach of the Year, and eight of his players were named to the SWL's All-Conference First Team – Gavin Brown, Connor Lawson, Matt Maestas, Mike Rocha, Pete Shearer, Allen Tieme, Irah Wooten and Angelo Youngren, plus two honorable mention recipients – Kameron DeVincentis and Nick Foster.
Community Pride – 12th Man
It was the first time the team reached the state final in 22 years. And while the team's take was silver instead of gold, it was an extraordinary year for football in Montrose.
The Indians’ only loss before last Saturday was by three points, to Grand Junction, in a game that decided the 2013 SWL crown. The team completed a historic playoff run that swept away painful memories of the previous seasons, playing with so much heart that the best efforts of the opposing teams to intimidate them were futile.
Let’s not forget, too, that this group is the first team from Montrose to ever play at Mile High Stadium, Colorado’s grandest stage for high-school football.
The state championship game appearance will lay the groundwork for future success.
"We wanted to bring the winning tradition back to Montrose and we did," said Irah Wooten, a senior.
(Just ask the teams in Grand Junction what they expect from Montrose when they play them now.) *Irah didn’t say that I did*
Talking with players, coaches and parents who participate in Montrose's youth football league, one thing is clear: Montrose has an identity. It is a football town.
A young, scrappy group of kids from Montrose went “over the hill” to Denver, and in the shadows of the cathedral built by John Elway, they lost to Pine Creek. That’s what the history will read. Yet one enduring story, from the blood, sweat and tears spilled on the field, will remain: The story of a team that proved they could play, all as one, all season long. They reinvigorated us as a community; it was what we talked about.
They made us smile.