Athletes of the Week: Palisade football

The Bulldogs are just three wins away from a state championship
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 9:50 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - The Palisade Bulldogs football team dominated their playoff opener for a seventh straight win. But as the stakes get higher, the competition gets a whole lot stronger.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs travel to face the undefeated #2 Lutheran Lions. While they come in as underdogs, Palisade has proven all year that with the right game plan and the right execution, they can beat anyone.

The Bulldogs offense centers around one type of play, called the run-pass option. Everyone has to be in sync, especially the quarterback and offensive line. The option is unique in that the quarterback decides after the snap whether to hand the ball off, run it himself, or pass to a receiver.

“Running the option, especially when you have a quarterback who can run it as well as Malakhi does, it really opens up our offense,” explained running back Franklin Barks.

Malakhi Espinosa is the Bulldogs quarterback, but he has put up eye-popping numbers running the football. Espinosa led his team with 1032 rushing yards this season, and 18 touchdowns. He’s certainly not the biggest guy on the football field, but he plays with a fire unlike anybody else out there.

“He gives you everything he’s got,” says Palisade’s longtime head coach Joe Ramunno. “What a great leader, the players rally around him, and I’m really honored he’s a part of this program.”

Lutheran crushed Palisade last year, 52-24, in a game which was scheduled last second due to Covid issues. But it’s a new season, a much stronger team, and Coach Ramunno’s squad is ready for the test.

“I love being the underdog,” Espinosa told us. “That’s my favorite, coming out and showing people what we can do, and just proving everyone wrong.”

Coach Ramunno agreed that the team is ready for their biggest challenge yet, stressing the importance of playing together as a team.

“That’s the Palisade philosophy,” he says. “We may not be the biggest or strongest or fastest, but as long as we can play together, we’ll have a lot of success.”

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