Palmer Ridge returns to 3A football championship game by beating Palisade

GRAND JUNCTION – For the second consecutive season, Palmer Ridge ousted Palisade from the Class 3A state football playoffs.

The Bears completely dominated the second half in defeating Palisade 42-7.

The score was tied until the Bears got a punt return to their own 43 with over three minutes remaining in the first half. After a pair of first downs, they punched it in from the 2 with just 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter to go ahead 14-7.

With the momentum, Palmer Ridge recovered a fumble at the Palisade 7 and scored in two plays.

They added a pair of short touchdowns within 17 seconds of each other to take a 35-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

Raef Ruel, who scored three of the Bears’ touchdowns, said watching film of Palisade during the week gave them confidence to rely on their ground game.

“We knew we’d be able to run the ball,” said Ruel, who rushed for 116 yards on 20 carries.

Bears coach Tom Pulford had great respect for Palisade, the No. 1 seed, despite having defeated them in last year’s semifinals.

“They’re a very disciplined team,” Pulford said. “We were fortunate to take away the things they do well.”

The win sets up a title game matchup with Pueblo East, which defeated Palmer Ridge earlier this season.

“We want our revenge on East,” Ruel said.