3A FOOTBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW

Palmer Ridge and Pueblo County collide for the 3A state championship this Saturday. They've combined for three titles over the past two years. PHOTO BY PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN/ZACHARY ALLEN

Two teams with a combined three titles over the past two years collide on Saturday in what should be a very good Class 3A state championship game.  Palmer Ridge has won the last two 3A crowns and a win makes them the second straight club to win three-in-a-row matching the effort of Pueblo East from 2014-16.  Pueblo South won the 4A championship two years ago and a win on Saturday gives them a second title in school history.

The teams are familiar with one another as they played on September 27th with the Bears collecting a hard fought 24-19 decision.  Raef Ruel’s five-yard touchdown run with 11:00 left in the fourth quarter gave Palmer Ridge a 24-13 lead and they held on from there.  Pueblo South got into the end zone with under a minute remaining but also missed a chance when they failed to score after recovering a fumble at the Bears 25-yard line.

It’s always difficult to predict what might happen in a rematch but we expect more points in the championship battle.  The main reason is that Palmer Ridge will have Luke McAllister at quarterback.  He did not play in the first meeting and without him in the lineup, the Bears threw for just 104 yards.  McAllister, in 11 games played, averages 213 yards per game with 2,346 for the season.  He’s also thrown for 24 touchdowns against just two interceptions.

His return also allows Anthony Roberson to lineup on the outside.  He’s the backup quarterback and while effective there, he’s probably a bigger threat from his wide receiver slot.  In fact, Roberson is the all-time leader with 4,002 career receiving yards and is the first player in Colorado to move past 4,000 yards.  He’s also third in catches (208) and tied for 12th all-time in touchdowns (36).  For 2019, Roberson missed a game and played three at quarterback but still leads the Bears with 49 catches for 1,000 yards and 11 scores.

Another factor in our thought for more points on Saturday is recent play of both defenses.  Palmer Ridge has allowed 56 points in their last two playoff wins over Conifer and Green Mountain and also surrendered 105 combined points in losses to Pine Creek (49) and Discovery Canyon (56).  South moved past Frederick in the semifinals last week but allowed almost 450 yards of offense to the Warriors.

George Longoria ran for 135 yards in a 24-19 loss to Palmer Ridge earlier this year. He leads the Pueblo South running game with 1,827 yards and 22 touchdowns on the year. PHOTO BY PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN/ZACHARY ALLEN

In beating Frederick 28-24 last week, South continued their trend of winning games late.  It was their third victory on the season coming in the final two minutes as they also did the same against Durango twice this year.  The winning score last Saturday came on a touchdown pass from Logan Petit to Jackson Dickerson; the third connection between the two on the day.  Petit completed 13 of 17 passes for 261 yards and Dickerson caught seven balls for 148 yards.  George Longoria added 75 yards and scored the fourth touchdown in the win.

That trio has led the South offense over the entire year.  Petit has thrown for 2,074 yards and 22 TD’s and Longoria has picked up 1,827 yards with 22 TD’s including 11 games of at least 100 yards.  Dickerson tops the team with 65 catches for 1,107 yards and 17 scores.

Petit also provides depth in the running game with 487 yards and 13 TD’s.  Dickerson has plenty of help on the outside as Hunter Fair (35), Luke Guarienti (21) and Garrett Mauger (20) has combined for 76 catches and six scores.

The Palmer Ridge offense is also much more than just McAlister and Roberson.  Raef Ruel sits 1,715 yards with 31 touchdowns on the season and has played an important role in the past two state championship teams.  He picked up 142 yards with three TD’s in last year’s win over Pueblo East and also rushed for 121 yards and a score as a sophomore in the 2017 win over Erie.

Kaden Dudley and Kieran Fry are also weapons in the passing game.  Dudley has 32 catches with seven scores and Fry 26 receptions for 233 yards.  Ruel is next with 10 catches.

As mentioned, both defenses have given up some points this year but each unit is also filled with players who can turn big plays into points.  The Bears defense has scored six touchdowns including two interception returns by Fry.  Fry leads the team with six interceptions while Dudley and Marcellus Reed each have five.  Overall, the Bears have forced 35 turnovers and 27 sacks.  Saxon Wright is the overall tackles leader with 141; which is 45 more than any other teammate.

The Pueblo South defense has scored three touchdowns including two on fumble returns.  They’ve forced 14 turnovers with Jace Bellah intercepting seven passes.   He’s returned one for a score as well.

One aspect we don’t mention often enough in our weekly previews is special teams but those units could easily help determine Saturday’s outcome as well.  Again, both teams have turned in big plays there.  Pueblo South has returned two punts and three kickoffs for scores; Palmer Ridge has a punt and kick return for a touchdown as well.

Saturday’s game is again at CSU-Pueblo where the Bears have captured the last two state titles.  Kickoff is set for 1:00pm and video coverage is available at www.nfhsnetwork.com.

 

  • History:  This is the second straight year the clubs have met in the post-season.  Palmer Ridge downed the Colts 41-7 last year in first round last season.  The Bears led 14-7 at halftime but then outscored the Colts 27-0 in the second half.  Ruel ran for 140 yards and both Dudley and Roberson each caught a touchdown pass.  The Bears have won their last 11 playoff games and have scored at least 40 points in 10 of them.  Only one game in the streak has been decided by single digits and that occurred in last year’s state championship win over Pueblo East (47-38).  Before their current dominance, Palmer Ridge had just one playoff win (2015).  They’re 12-4 all-time in the playoffs.  Pueblo South has won seven of their last eight playoff contests with the only setback to Palmer Ridge last year.  They’re 19-21 all-time in the playoffs and are making their second trip to the state finals in school history.  The Colts downed Pine Creek (25-14) to win the 2017 4A title in their only previous visit.

Kevin Shaffer

Kevin Shaffer

Kevin Shaffer is the founder and owner of the Colorado Preps Network which debuted in the summer of 2003. Kevin and his wife Lanette reside in Fort Morgan and are the proud parents of Lexi and Tyler.

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