MONUMENT • It all started with a punch in the face.
But what came out of the scrum on an eighth-grade sledding retreat was a friendship that would eventually lead to back-to-back state football titles and a package recruitment deal in college.
Palmer Ridge senior defensive players Colton Dill and Jake Dillon still joke about how they became friends — with Dillon claiming ownership as the better storyteller.
“Colton threw a snowball at me, so I threw one at him — and then he took my snow hat off, and then I took his snow hat off — and then he punched me in the face,” Dillon said.
An eighth-grade history teacher intervened to break up the fight and pulled the two aside.
“We talked, and cried and hugged, and we’ve been best friends ever since,” Dillon said.
“Ever since that moment of us becoming best friends we always wanted to go to college together.”
Wednesday they made that dream a reality as both signed their National Letters of Intent to play football at CSU-Pueblo.
“The coaching staff there was definitely willing to get us both there, and they were willing to accommodate with whatever we needed to do to get us both there,” Dill said. “When most coaches came to the school to talk to us they talked to us both, so it was kind of just kind of like a package deal.”
In his senior year Dill had 102 total tackles, including 58 solo to help the Palmer Ridge defense hold opponents to just 13.6 points on average. Dill had 18 tackles for a loss as a senior and nine sacks. Dillon led Class 3A averaging 1.3 sacks per game — 16.5 sacks total his senior year. He finished the year with 70 total tackles, split evenly between solo and assists, and had 13.5 tackles for a loss.
“These two are always together,” Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford said at Wednesday’s signing ceremony. “People are always like, ‘Oh it’s a bromance,’ but at the end of the day wherever one is, the other one is, and they’re making each other better. You guys make a positive difference in this world — keep doing that in Pueblo.”
Their efforts aided Palmer Ridge to its second-straight 3A state football championship, played on their future college turf at the Neta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl at CSU-Pueblo.
“It was cool playing at our future college,” Dillon said. “We’re already undefeated in that stadium.”
The same year Dillon and Dill became friends, Dillon questioned whether he was going to continue his football career. Dillon recalls a car ride with his dad returning from a baseball tournament in which he announced he didn’t want to play football anymore.
“I played football eighth grade and it was fun and all, but I wanted to focus on baseball,” Dillon said.
“But it was a good thing I had that fight with my dad because I probably wouldn’t be in this position otherwise.”
Dillon and Dill will be joined by at least five other 2019 Pikes Peak region graduates who signed letters of intent to play football at CSU-Pueblo.
Pine Creek’s Daniel Bone, Fountain-Fort Carson’s Mikeroy Markwei, Derrick Leomiti and Mikey McLaughlin, and Rampart’s Marshall Ehrlin signed to CSU-Pueblo on Wednesday.
“I think it’s definitely exciting that they recruit from Colorado and it’s a bunch of local kids,” Dill said.
“I think that’s a really cool thing to go from opponents to teammates. I think it helps a lot with the program and the bond we have with teammates.”
Five Palmer Ridge players sign to play college football
In addition to Colton Dill and Jake Dillon heading to CSU-Pueblo to continue their football careers, seniors JC Sparks, Samuel Jackson and Anthony Rosenstrauch also participated in a signing-day ceremony at Palmer Ridge.
Sparks signed to play linebacker at Colorado Mesa University, Jackson signed to Dordt College to be a long-snapper and Rosenstrauch, also a long-snapper, signed a certificate of intent to the Air Force Academy.
Sparks was a Gazette Preps first-team linebacker, finishing with 125 tackles, averaging 9.6 a game senior year. He also had 13 sacks, a blocked punt, two forced fumbles, and caught two touchdown passes.
Jackson and Rosenstrauch shared long-snapping duties.
“We made a goal years ago to become the best program in the state,” Pulford said. “And sometimes when you become the best program in the state you have problems — like when you have two great long-snappers. Both of these guys are great long-snappers and they’re going to play football in college.”
In November Ty Evans and Aidan Cullen signed Division I National Letters of Intent to N.C. State and Colorado State, respectively. Running back Josiah Castro also committed to Sterling College.