Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Durango seemed poised for a shot at a homecoming comeback.
But a key goal-line stand by Palisade upset those plans.
The Bulldogs stopped Tyler Worley a yard short of a first down as Durango High School was poised to make it a one-possession game, and Palisade ran out the clock on the DHS football team for a 28-13 victory Friday at DHS Stadium.
“They get their kids to play hard, and sometimes you’ve got to stand up to somebody that’s playing harder than you are at that moment,” DHS head coach Greg Wyatt said.
Palisade, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A by The Denver Post, answered Jeremy Szura’s 6-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 21-13 in the fourth quarter with a seven-play, 61-yard drive capped by a 10-yard Dalton Hannigan touchdown run to push the lead back to 28-13 with 6 minutes, 13 seconds to play.
Thanks to a 51-yard pass from Szura to Garrett Marcum, Durango had the ball at the Palisade 10-yard line on the next drive, but the Bulldogs (5-0) stymied three Worley runs up the middle.
On fourth down, Szura hit Worley on the left sideline, but the Bulldogs tackled him just short of a first down that would’ve kept Durango’s hope alive.
Palisade then ran, ran and ran some more to run the last 3:46 off the clock.
Line play was key for Palisade. The Bulldogs ran for 354 yards while holding Durango to 117 on the ground, stuffing most of Durango’s attempts to run up the middle, an area DHS took control of in last week’s home win against Farmington.
“They did definitely control the line of scrimmage (Friday), and it’s tough to win when you can’t control the line of scrimmage,” Wyatt said.
“Maybe they’re better players (than Farmington). They’ve got a good system.”
Durango (2-3) flipped the field in the third quarter, starting two of its three drives from its own 40 or better. But DHS couldn’t move the ball against a stout Palisade defense.
“We finally were playing on their side of the field for awhile but just unable to come up with the points we needed,” Wyatt said. “We played the whole first half on our side of the field and kind of just always had our backs against the wall.
“When you fall down by two touchdowns, it’s tough against a good football team.”
Palisade led 21-7 at halftime on a 39-yard pass from Luke McLean to Easton Woods, a 23-yard screen pass from McLean to Hannigan and a McLean 3-yard run.
DHS got its first score on Szura’s 8-yard pass to Blake Dunlap, who returned from injury.
But other than Szura’s scoring pass to Dunlap and a 51-yarder to Marcum, the Demons didn’t have many passing highlights. Szura was 8 of 17 for 88 yards, plagued by several drops and a few underthrown balls.
Wyatt wasn’t pleased with the execution.
“The passing game was atrocious,” Wyatt said. “Bottom line. It’s got to improve if we’re going to win any football games.
“It allows them to play a lot freer and attack the run. It’s definitely a point of emphasis.”
Durango did get a boost from three turnovers. A fourth-quarter fumble led to Szura’s scoring run, while Casey Dunlap’s interception set up Szura-to-Blake Dunlap for a touchdown in the second quarter. Dane Mestas also had a second-quarter pick.
The Demons also made a nice defensive stand in the first quarter, stopping McLean for no gain on a fourth-and-4 from the Durango 5 with 7:21 left in the opening frame.
Worley led the way with 84 yards rushing on 26 carries for Durango. (DHS players weren’t made available for postgame interviews.)
DHS will play Grand Junction at 7 p.m. Oct. 6., while Palisade set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown Thursday at home against Class 3A No. 1 Rifle.