COLORADO SPRINGS — Chewing clock is what No. 3 Montrose does best with its run-heavy offense. And it proved to be the difference in a 31-30 win over No. 9 Vista Ridge Friday night at Vista Ridge High School.
The Indians (5-1 overall, 1-0 4A Foothills League) stayed true to the offense that has kept them a winning team and ran the ball often and effectively. They once against put the load on the back of their bruising fullback Mike Rocha, whose two touchdown runs proved to be key in the win.
"It's not just me, you have to have a solid offensive line and a quarterback that takes care of the ball," Rocha said. "We just pound the ball, it's what we do."
Rocha and the Indians marched their way down the field on the first drive of the game before the Vista Ridge (4-2, 0-1) defense clamped down inside the red zone, holding Montrose to just a field goal, the only score of the first quarter for either team.
The second series proved to be better defensively for the Wolves. The Indians — once again riding on the back of Rocha — drove to midfield, but were forced to punt. Down 3-0, Elway Tubbs and the Vista Ridge offense were looking for something happen.
Finding early success on quick wide receiver screens proved to be deadly as Tubbs went to the well on the first play of the drive, resulting in cornerback Mitch Freismuth jumping the route and trotting into the end zone for a pick-six.
"You look at that and as soon as it happens you wish you could have it back," Wolves coach Jeremi Calip said. "You have a kid and set him up to make a play, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't and you look at that pick-six and we were a block away from having a big play."
But the swing in momentum didn't last long as Eric Stowers responded with an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of the ensuing drive to get the Wolves on the board. The Wolves' defense went back on the field with some fire, and forced a fumble that was recovered by Vista Ridge defensive lineman Josh Coppock.
Tubbs and the offense couldn't find their feet and were forced to punt the ball back to the Indians who marched 78 yards down the field, all on the ground. Rocha ended the drive with a touchdown run, giving Montrose a 17-7 halftime lead.
The Indians opened the second half with another Rocha touchdown to go up 24-7, putting the Wolves against a wall. Tubbs and his offense finally responded with a quick scoring drive to cut the Montrose lead to 10.
"We had three starters out on defense which didn't help us, it was a physical game," Indians coach Todd Casebier said. "We were scrambling a little bit on defense but give Vista Ridge credit, their kids kept fighting and they ran some good up-tempo on us."
Montrose would find the end zone one more time in the game with a touchdown pass from quarterback Kameron DeVincentis to Freismuth for 31 yards.
But the rest of the game belonged to a gutsy performance by Tubbs and his offense. He responded with a touchdown pass to Marquez Trunnell, the second scoring hookup for the duo. A missed extra point put the Wolves down 31-20. The score would hold until the waning minutes of the game.
The Indians held the ball with less than three minutes to go and willingly took a safety to give the Wolves the ball back down 31-22. Montrose opted for a short kick, giving Tubbs the ball with a short field to work with. He found the end zone in no time and following a two-point conversion, Vista Ridge had pulled to within one point.
But they couldn't recover the onside and for the second straight week, Vista Ridge had fallen at home.
"I'm proud of our guys," Casebier said. "When you ride a bus for seven hours, you don't care. 31-30 will work for us or 2-0 will work for us. We're 1-0 in league and that's all that matters."