When Palmer High School senior Chris Ndushabandi scooped up a fumble and raced roughly 40 yards to the end zone for the final points of the Terrors’ 21-12 win over city rival Mitchell, he wasn’t thinking about what his play would eventually seal - second-year coach Tom Reber’s first win at Palmer.
“I was like ‘I hope I don’t get tackled,’” the senior said. “That’s what I was thinking the whole time.”
He would not be caught, and another Marauder fumble sealed the first win since his sophomore season.
“I’m super proud of them and extremely excited for them,” Reber said.
After quarterback Jackson Brill took a knee to wind down the final seconds, helmets were ripped off, choreographed celebrations were displayed and some of the Terrors lept into the arms of a raucous student section.
“They were amazing, every single one of them,” Ndushabandi said. “They kept us up.”
The Terrors found themselves in a 12-0 hole at halftime after Mitchell got rushing touchdowns from seniors Joe Williams and Jaylin Babers, but that didn’t stop Palmer’s student section from chanting “Si se puede,” roughly translated to “Yes, we can.”
The tide turned almost instantly in the second half.
Palmer kicked to Mitchell, but a Marauder muffed the catch. A Terror recovered, and on the next play, Brill took a quarterback keeper 39 yards up the middle.
“Just saw the open hole, my line blocked it great - absolutely perfect,” Brill said.
“Line did absolutely amazing tonight.”
That offensive line paved the way for Brill’s second score, a plunge from a couple yards out that gave Palmer its first lead at 14-12 with 1:17 in the third.
The teams traded scoreless possessions until the senior safety’s scoop and score.
Reber, who moved to Colorado and coached at Manitou Springs in 2015 before taking a year off and eventually moving over to Palmer, got a celebratory ice bath after the drama was done.
“It felt good,” Reber said.
Mitchell (0-1) saw players at numerous positions exit and not return due to injury.
“We played emotional,” Marauder coach Corey Anderson said. “We responded to the things they were doing in the wrong manner, and yeah, didn’t show up in the second half.”
Anderson said a better week of practice will be needed to avoid the same fate in Week 2, and after their first win together, Reber and the Terrors are taking a similar approach as they try to build.
“One day at a time,” Reber said. “One of the things we talk about in our program is get one percent better everyday and it compounds over time. That’s all I can ask of the kids.”