This year, Junction was the true football specimen, rolling to a convincing 49 – 21 win over the Montrose Indians. The Junction Tigers, a 5A division school with 25 seniors and a No. 1 state ranking, lived up to expectations.
But for many at Stocker Stadium the game was closer than the scoreboard showed.
With Montrose trailing Grand Junction by two touchdowns in the second quarter, the Indians made a fiery comeback, scoring two unanswered touchdowns to tie the game at the half, 14-all.
Sophomore running back Angelo Youngren was able to push the ball into the end zone after a successful Montrose passing sequence that set up the ground game. Nearing the end of the first half, an interception from Cameron Jones opened up the next opportunity for the Indians offense. Drew Casebier connected with Jones on a well-executed pass play to tie the game seconds before the half ended.
“They jumped on us quick,” Head Coach Todd Casebier said. But “once we got our feet under us, we got back in the game. It was almost like the moment was too big for us at first.”
The Indians’ offensive momentum slowed to a halt at the beginning of the second half, though, while the Junction Tigers seemed to be just getting started. The Tigers broke it open, scoring their third touchdown to edge past Montrose 21-14, and it was just a taste of what was to come.
Junction’s star senior quarterback Sean Rubalcaba led the way, running the ball 43 yards for another score to go up by two touchdowns. Rubalcaba then struck again, running in another touchdown with five seconds left in the third quarter.
With Grand Junction leading 35-14 going into the final period, Montrose came out undaunted by the developing landslide. Casebier threw a 60-yard pass to Blake Alexander for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter. With the score at 35-21 and the Montrose offense on the move, the Indians had the momentum with their running attack. But a controversial fumble call turned the ball over to Grand Junction at the Tigers’ 20 yard line.
Grand Junction marched down the field to score yet again. With a series of outside sweeps the Tigers seemed to wear down the Indians’ defense and kept the Montrose offense off the field for much of the fourth quarter.
In the closing two minutes of the game, Montrose rallied again with a series of passes taking them deep into Tiger territory, but an interception of a Casebier pass in the end zone led to a final Grand Junction touchdown to bring the scoring to a 49 – 21 final.
Montrose experienced some success against this year’s biggest rival, passing for more yards than Junction had given up previously this season, according to Casebier. The Indians were able to mix up their offense and kept the Tigers vaunted defense guessing for much of the evening.
“We had to throw the ball more because they did a good job taking away our runs,” he said. “We took some chances with the onside kick and a fake punt, and there was a glimmer of opportunity,” Coach Casebier said.
Although Montrose played well, it still added up to a loss. This game was pivotal for the Southwestern League standings. For the past six years Montrose and Grand Junction have battled it out for the SWL title. The Indians have four titles to their name, but Grand Junction has taken it for the past two years.
“To be anybody in this league you have to beat Grand Junction,” Casebier said.
This explains the rivalry between the two teams but does not make the loss any easier to swallow for Montrose team and fans. Though the Indians are still in the running for the 4A state playoffs, wins are important at this point in the season in determining how the Indians will be ranked. Grand Junction gave the Indians a dose of tough football, which will go a long ways to help the Indians prepare for the playoffs.
The Indians need to continue to win to earn their place in the state football standings, according to Casebier.
“We have to outwork and outplay everyone to get a chance,” he said.