MONTROSE – The dreaded quarterfinals claimed yet another season from the Montrose Indians.
For the fourth time in the past five seasons, the Indians fell in the quarterfinal round of State Class 4A football playoffs, this time to the Heritage Eagles of Littleton. With a final score of 43-24, last Saturday’s game was tainted by the bitter taste of loss.
The game posed No. 5 ranked Eagles against the No. 4 ranked Indians. With the quarterfinal win under their belt, Heritage (11-1) will go on to host the top-seeded Monarch (12-0), while Montrose (10-2) heads into the off-season.
The Eagles posted 507 yards of offense and the Indians racked up 433 yards. Although the Indians won the special teams battle and put up a tough face, they were simply outplayed on their own field.
The loss was particularly hard on the team’s 16 seniors, who were hoping to break Montrose’s quarterfinal-curse and push through the second round of state competition victorious. Although the year ended with the Indians’ fourth straight Southwestern League title, the team and Head Coach Todd Casebier were hoping for something more.
“We’ve been very good,” said Casebier. “The only thing we haven’t done is get to the semi-finals and win state.”
Although the next round of competition is now out of reach, Montrose can end the season confident that they played a good game against a truly volatile team. For almost two decades the Eagles were a 5A team, and just recently joined the 4A circuit, making Heritage the largest 4A school and Montrose the smallest. With size already on their side, the team leans on another secret weapon: quarterback Mitch Griebel.
Griebel, a fourth-year starter and the son of Heritage Head Coach Mike Griebel, has had his hand in 44 touchdowns this season, an average of four scores per game. With such stats it’s no wonder that he is currently the Air Force Academy’s No. 1 quarterback prospect.
“They’re explosive. Their quarterback is a special athlete…they’re good football players and well coached,” said Casebier.
With such a powerful team as opponents, the Montrose Indians countered back with a surprising amount of force. Senior halfback Glayden Berry scored the first two touchdowns of the game, while kicker Ricky Zatarain’s ensured PATs sailed easily into the end zone. The half ended with Heritage in the lead, 22-14.
At the start of the second half, Montrose came on strong with a 30-yard field goal by Zatarain, which was quickly followed by a Heritage touchdown, bringing the score to 29-17. The mighty Indians kept up the fight, decreasing the margin with a touchdown by Johnathan Sierra.
The fourth quarter started with Heritage in the lead 29-24. For a moment it seemed that Montrose – who has a history of dominating in the fourth quarter – might be able to pull ahead, but the Eagles had other plans. They came out strong, pushing the Indian defense and bringing in two touchdowns, ending the game with an Eagle victory. Although the game resulted in a season-ending loss for Montrose, they are credited for playing with pride and a high-level of aggression; the team truly pulled together and performed as a unit on the field.
“They’ve got good chemistry. They like being around each other and showing grit when they need to,” said Casebier.
With one more quarterfinals loss now in the past, Casebier and his team of fighting Indians are ready to take a breather before starting another season of resilient Montrose football.