GRAND JUNCTION — In the end, the Mead football team came up one opportunity too short.
The Mavericks, after trailing by as much as 20 points, saw their rally attempt against Palisade come up six points short as the Bulldogs defeated Mead 27-21 in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state playoffs.
Call it the revenge tour for Palisade. After disposing of Fort Morgan, the team that knocked Palisade from the playoffs three years ago, Palisade avenged a loss to the Mavericks in the quarterfinals two years ago.
It looked as if Palisade was going to dominate early on. The Bulldogs scored midway through the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead. But Mead (8-4) answered two minutes later on a 64-yard run off right tackle by Jake Wachter.
Palisade mounted a 65-yard drive to end the half to lead 20-7.
When the Bulldogs scored on the opening play of the fourth quarter, they looked to have the game in hand.
Mead promptly put together back-to-back 37-yard passing plays to set up first and goal, and Nathan Bailey followed up by taking the ball around the left end nine yards for the score.
Mead took over at its own 32 with 6:18 to play and put together a 13-play drive capped off by a nine-yard shovel pass from Wachter to Nick Jacobs with 3:23 remaining. Just like that, it was a six-point game at 27-21.
But the Mavericks had used up their timeouts to that point and had to hope for an onside kick recovery. Palisade (11-1) pounced on the kick, effectively ending the game.
Nevertheless, Mead coach Jason Klatt was proud of his team's effort, and of its season.
"Our kids have resolve," Klatt said.
He knew Palisade's ball-control offense would pose problem.
"We knew their offense was what it was," he said of a Palisade ground game that produced 317 yards, including 167 by quarterback Cam Tucker.
As for the Palisade defense, "They were very fundamental," Mavericks quarterback Brady Veltien said. "They were well coached. It was a good game."
Klatt was pleased with his team's progress this season.
"I'm proud of how they came together," he said of a senior class that reached the playoffs for the fourth straight season, including three quarterfinal and one final four appearance.
"This team is a bunch of fighters," said Veltien, a junior. "Next year they'll do the same thing."
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Palisade 27, Mead 21
At Stocker Stadium, Grand JunctionMead (8-4) 0 7 0 14 — 21
Palisade — Cam Tucker 12 run (Ben Sargent kick).
Palisade — Joseph Alejo punt recovery in end zone (Sargent kick). Mead — Jake Wachter 64 run (Taylor Kamigaki kick). Palisade — Tucker 8 run (Sargent kick).
Palisade — Jason Bruce 4 run (Sargent kick). Mead — Nathan Bailey 9 run (Kamigaki kick). Mead. — Nick Jacobs 9 pass from Wachter (Kamigaki kick).