COLORADO SPRINGS — Message received.
Palmer Ridge began the 2017 football season knowing it could be among the best teams in the state. That message has now been received loud and clear after the Class 3A CHSAANow.com No. 4-ranked Bears knocked off No. 7 Discovery Canyon 49-28 on Thursday night.
The Bears are good. And everyone is starting to take notice with each passing week.
"We knew from the start that we were a contender," junior quarterback Ty Evans said. "We just came out with the mindset that we're going to play every game the same and eventually the state is going to take notice."
It was Evans who helped dictate the pace early for Palmer Ridge (4-0 overall). He came out firing with a 35-yard completion to Cameron Colandgelo to start the drive. The Bears then turned to the ground, finding the end zone on nine-yard touchdown run from Anthony Roberson II.
The Thunder (2-2) put together a solid first drive, but a holding call on 3rd and goal at the six killed the momentum. Cory Gurnett's field gaol attempt was blocked, leaving Discovery Canyon empty-handed after a promising offensive start.
And then Evans went back to work. After the Bears scored again on the ground, he began picking the Thunder defense apart and threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, including a 47-yard strike and a 52-yard bomb to Roberson.
"I feel like our coaches put us in a good position every week," Roberson said. "It's up to us to execute that game plan and I think we did an excellent job of that."
Discovery Canyon got its first sign of life on the opening drive of the second half. On the fifth play of the series, sophomore Marshall Pike broke free for a 60-yard touchdown run, putting the Thunder on the board.
On the first play for the Discovery Canyon defense, it came away with something it wasn't able to get in the first half. Daniel Eggleton and Bryan Frye sacked Evans, throwing Palmer Ridge for a loop. The increased pressure led to a 4th down where a bad snap gave the Thunder the ball on the Bears' 10-yard line.
It took just one play for Zack Anderson to get into the end zone and all of a sudden, Discovery Canyon had something cooking.
"We had to get some more pressure on (Evans)," Discovery Canyon coach Shawn Mitchell said. "We can't just let the kid stand back there and pick us apart. I was pretty happy with the way that we played in the second half for the most part."
The only problem was the hole that the team had fallen into in the first half.
Evans ended his night throwing for 390 yards and four touchdowns. The Bears scored on five of their first six possessions and surrendered no points in the first half.
All against the team who finished as the 3A runner-up last year. Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford couldn't have asked for a better result.
"Any time you play Discovery Canyon, you know they're going to fight," he said. "You know they'll be in it until the bitter end and they their kids in positions to go make plays."
Pulford was able to do the same with his guys. And after Thursday's win, it won't be long before the Bears are viewed as one of the teams to beat in 2017. And that's the message they've been sending since the start of the season.