Palisade football wins 3A Western Slope League title by beating Rifle

RIFLE – The road to the Class 3A Western Slope Conference title has recently gone through either Palisade or Rifle. Those two have dominated In the last few years.

This year was no exception as the two met Friday for the league title and the edge heading into the playoffs.

Give this year's nod to Palisade, ranked No. 10 this week, which won its second consecutive WSC title with a 55-33 victory over the No. 9 Bears.

It looked like the home team would establish momentum early as Rifle scored on its opening drive, moving 80 yards in seven plays highlighted by Joel Lopez's 54-yard and herds TD run.

Palisade was undaunted. The Bulldogs scored on their first offensive snap, quarterback Cameron Tucker answering with a 66-yard touchdown off left tackle.

Palisade then scored on its remaining four possessions on the half, the Bulldog defense holding  Rifle to one score as Palisade took a 34-14 halftime lead.

There was no letup in the second half as the Bulldogs put together one of their few long drives.

The main culprits on offense were quarterback Cameron Tucker and running back Austin Bernal, who combined for five touchdown runs and over 300 yards rushing between them.

"We're very versatile as an offense," Bernal said. "It's the Palisade demeanor."

Tucker said the unusual amount of long runs against a normally stout Rifle defense starts up front.

"It's a credit to our offensive line," Tucker said.

Bulldogs coach Joe Ramunno was surprised his team scored as freely as it did.

"Rifle has a great program," Ramunno said, tipping his cap to Bears coach Damon Wells.

As for the playoffs, "We still have some adjustments to make," Bernal said.

For a team that had a lot of holes to fill due to graduation last years, Palisade has done a quick job of making those adjustments this season.