Durango came up short in a top-10 battle last week at home against Palisade. It will only get tougher for the Demons this week.
The Durango High School football team, fresh off a tough 25-18 loss to No. 2 Palisade in a Class 3A showdown, will hit the road for the first time this season to face another traditional Western Slope rival in Class 4A No. 3 Montrose (2-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I told the guys life is about learning lessons,” DHS head coach David Vogt said after the Palisade loss. “We gotta take a lesson from this one. Coaches gotta do a better job, kids gotta do a better job, and it’s just about focus.”
DHS, which remained No. 10 in the CHSAA Class 3A poll after last week’s loss, will look for better results against the run after it allowed 416 yards rushing to the Palisade Bulldogs.
Montrose returned Emmert Kastendieck as a senior running back from last season’s team. Last season, he rushed for 916 yards and nine touchdowns while ripping off 9.3 yards per carry.
This year, the Montrose offense has centered around big fullback Cole Simmons, who rushed for six touchdowns last season. In the season opener against Grand Junction Central, Trent Blundell, Kastendieck and Simmons ran through the Warriors defense for several long TD runs. Kastendieck and Simmons had two TD runs each, and Blundell added another.
Last week in a 35-3 road rout of Grand Junction, Simmons galloped for 168 yards and three more TDs, while the Indians amassed 365 yards on the ground.
Keagan Goodwin is the Indians’ junior quarterback. Montrose also features Riley Barnhill, a slashing wide receiver who has also been a force running the ball, with two TDs already this season.
Vogt said having so many players to worry about stopping in the run game can be difficult.
“It comes down to assignment football,” he said. “You have to do your assignment and make sure you’re making a tackle. We always talk about the one eleventh on the team, and that means every guy on the field has to do their job to take away the run.”
Simmons is a force on both sides of the ball. Last season, he led Montrose with 144 total tackles, more than double the amount of Blundell, now a junior who was second on the team a year ago.
Durango has its own potent rushing attack led by senior Everett Howland. He has 347 yards and three touchdowns on only 20 carries for an astounding average of 17.4 yards per carry. Junior quarterback Jordan Woolverton has rushed for another two scores to go with 77 yards on 12 runs.
Woolverton is also 21-of-33 passing this year for 318 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. After not getting a chance to mount a potential game-winning drive last week after a game-tying TD pass in the fourth quarter against Palisade, Woolverton will aim to finish the job this week in Montrose, but he will be smart to avoid throwing toward Montrose’s Eli Evans, who had two interceptions last week at Grand Junction.
“We’re going to remember this feeling,” Woolverton said after the Palisade loss. “It’s bitter being this close, being up at halftime and then coming back and being that close to winning this game. We’re going to be a little bitter coming out of this game and look to take some frustration out up in Montrose.”
The first road test is as tough as they come. Under head coach Brett Mertens, the Indians are 20-6 since 2017. That includes a 10-1 record at home in the regular season. That lone home loss was a one-point defeat to Fruita Monument in the 2017 season opener.
The only other two home losses for Montrose the last two-plus seasons have come in the state playoffs. The first was to Pueblo South, which went on to win the 2017 state title. Last season, Montrose stole a 41-36 win at Durango behind a dominant 220-yard rushing performance from senior Chris Eckerman, who finished the year with 1,694 rushing yards. The Indians went on to finish 11-2 overall and reach the Class 4A state semifinals before a 42-0 loss to Loveland, which also went on to claim a state title.
The Demons have six road games this year in a 10-game schedule. Friday is the first of a four-game road swing, and DHS will hope to get it started on a positive note with a huge upset win.