Palmer Ridge became a Class 3A soccer juggernaut with three consecutive Colorado state championships before moving to 4A this season. Could greater and better competition derail the Bears’ dynasty?
No chance. Palmer Ridge is one win away from a fourth straight state title.
“We always love a challenge and we love competition,” said Palmer Ridge senior wide receiver Kaden Dudley. “We came in this season knowing it was going to be much more difficult and challenging. … It was super fun to play in 4A this year, proving that many of the doubters were wrong on this path. “
The No. 2 Bears (6-0) face off against No. 4 Loveland (8-0) for significant contrast in styles. Loveland’s run-first approach delivers results with 340 ground yards per game and 16 hasty touchdowns from senior running back Zack Rakowsky. The Palmer Ridge Recipe for Success? Air it out.
“We like to throw the ball,” said Dirk.
The fast 6 foot, 190 pound wide receiver would know. Dudley is considered the No. 11 college prospect in the state for the Class of 2021, according to 247Sports, with more than 1,500 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns over three varsity seasons on Palmer Ridge. Dudley has committed to Boise State this summer and he is also not the only Bears pass catcher to play at the next level.
Cameron Jones, a senior tight end, has offered multiple favorite walk-on and small-school scholarships. Senior wide receiver Marcellus Reed is committed to Division-II powerhouse Pitt State. Anthony Costanzo, a tall 6-foot-3 junior wide receiver, has scholarship offers from the state of Colorado and Colorado. And additional underclassmen have also flashed talent.
It’s a wealth of reception opportunities for senior quarterback Luke McAllister – a 4300-yard career passer-by who is committed to hitting the road at CSU next fall.
“We’ve all been with Luke for a long time, so the chemistry is just great,” said Dudley.
“If they try to double one of us, one of the other will just stay open,” Dudley continued. “Every week, another of our receivers has a super-sized game. That is what we are used to at this point. Every receiver has a role and the route concepts we’ve built into the playbook allow someone to open up. “
Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford is quick to attribute the improved play of his offensive line and the growth in every position on the roster to why the Bears are in position for a fourth title. But Pulford says his “broad receiver corps is the strength of our team.”
For reasons beyond just gruesome statistics.
“We may have had host corps in the past who had the same talent, but we may not have had that brotherhood and love for each other as strong as the one we have now,” Pulford said. “This year offered children unique opportunities to respond to adversity.”
Palmer Ridge sat out two games this season with a 14-day quarantine period for the entire team, bouncing back with double-digit wins in each of their playoff games. The Bears final challenge is to defeat a Loveland defense that has forced 20 turnovers in eight games. The newcomers of 4A are up for the challenge.
“To show our attack against a really great team,” said Dudley, “I think it will open a lot of eyes to what we’re going on at Palmer Ridge.”