With the state football semifinals right around the corner, Class 3A No. 4 Palmer Ridge is the lone Pikes-Peak region team alive in the postseason.
Can the Bears make it to their second-straight state title game? First, they'll have to get past No. 1 Palisade on the road. Find out what to expect from Saturday's state semifinal matchup.
No. 4 Palmer Ridge
Game data: No. 4 Palmer Ridge (10-2) vs. No. 1 Palisade (11-1) … Saturday at Stocker Stadium, Grand Junction, at 1 p.m. The winner moves on to the 3A state title game against either No. 3 Erie or No. 2 Pueblo East.
Scouting report: After two weeks of blowout wins in the Class 3A tournament, No. 4 Palmer Ridge will face its biggest challenge of the postseason.
Last year Palmer Ridge defeated Palisade 28-14 in the semis, but this time the Bulldogs have home-field advantage, meaning Palmer Ridge has a nearly five-hour drive from Monument to Stocker Stadium.
Palisade is fresh off a 27-21 win over No. 9 Mead and enter the postseason on an eight-game winning streak. The Bulldogs narrowly escaped an upset by Mead, who scored in the final four minutes, but Palisade recovered the attempted onside kick to ultimately seal it.
The Bulldogs pulled off the win without a single passing yard, and racked up 327 yards on the ground. The Bulldog ground game was led by quarterback Cam Tucker with 174 yards and two touchdowns.
On the defensive side the Bulldogs were led by Joseph Alejo who had nine tackles, followed by Cody Cordova with seven.
Palisade is a run-first offense with just 43 total passing attempts this season. Tucker has 530 passing yards, six touchdowns and a .610 completion percentage. But Tucker’s biggest threat is his legs. He has 1,638 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns, averaging 8 yards per carry. Senior Jason Bruce is second on the team in rushing yards with 834, followed by Cole Tscherter with 546 yards.
Alejo leads the small receiving corps with 262 receiving yards, averaging one reception per game.
On the defensive side Carl Cox leads the team with 91 total tackles, followed by Alejo with 81. Tucker and Bruce lead the secondary with three interceptions each.
Palisade averages 34.9 points and 381.8 total yards — 332.4 of those rushing, on average.
Palmer Ridge faced a similar offense in Discovery Canyon in the final week of the regular season, holding the powerful Thunder run game — which averaged over 300 rushing yards — to just 95 yards in a 42-0 win.
Palmer Ridge's defense has not allowed a team to score more than 14 points since its last loss Sept. 7.
JC Sparks leads the defense with 102 tackles, including a team-leading 22 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks. He is followed by Charlie Deeds with 87 total tackles.
The Bears’ secondary leads Class 3A with 19 interceptions, led by Kaden Dudley with nine.
Palmer Ridge is a much more balanced offense averaging 163.7 rushing and 196.3 receiving yards.
The Bears proved last week that they can still pull off a well-balanced attack despite the elements. Palmer Ridge defeated No. 5 Harrison 51-14 in freezing rain putting up 182 rushing yards and 181 receiving yards.
Quarterback Ty Evans had four passing touchdowns and rushed for two more. His top receiver was Deuce Roberson with 97 yards and two touchdown catches. Evans also led the ground game with 58 rushing yards, followed by Raef Ruel with 51 yards.
Ruel’s performance in the state quarterfinal pushed him over the 1,000 mark for the season. He leads the team with 1,037 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, followed by Noah Brom with 343 and Evans with 332.
Roberson has 845 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, followed by Deeds (405) and Dudley with 332.