After several weeks of obliterating opponents, the Ponderosa football team is welcoming the arrival of some playoff-type competition this week.
The Mustangs (9-0, 4-0) have shellacked teams mercilessly this fall, having posted six shutouts among a series of bold-faced pagan stomps. The top-ranked team in the Class 4A poll, Ponderosa has clobbered its way to a devastating 418-45 composite scoring margin.
And to think, Pueblo South is an otherworldly 55-54 loss away from being 9-0 as well.
The teams will meet in the regular-season finale (7 p.m., Thursday, Dutch Clark Stadium) in a delectable matchup that has far-reaching ramifications. For starters, the contest will decide the Foothills League, with the winner earning a home game to start the postseason. The loser also has a chance to host as the top-rated team that isn’t a league champion, but that is hardly a guarantee.
Ponderosa running back Jevon Glover needs a mere 35 yards to crack the 1,000 mark, and he has rushed for 15 TDs. Quarterback Sterling Ostdahl has tossed 18 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, and twin brother Quinton leads the Mustangs with 64 tackles. That includes 10 tackles for a loss and four sacks. Since defeating 5A Legend 31-21 to start the season, coach Jaron Cohen’s group has been played to within 20 points only one time — and that was a 19-point win against Grand Junction Central.
For No. 8 Pueblo South (8-1, 4-0), the lone blemish continues to be the wacky 55-54 double-overtime loss to Pueblo West in Week 3. The Colts’ defense has registered three shutouts of its own, and senior QB Zach Cozzolino has passed for a spellbinding 33 touchdowns against only five interceptions. Marcell Barbee has hauled in 14 TD receptions and Thomas Pannunzino 11. But the Colts aren’t all about the pass, as they have a 1,000-yard rusher as well in Steve Brock.
This will be the undisputed game of the week within the classification, as high-flying offenses will encounter staunch defenses with a league title in the balance. But a handful of additional games contain league and playoff implications as the regular season comes to a close, and here’s a look at some of the most notable:
Mesa Ridge at Pine Creek (7 p.m., Thursday)
This is a much bigger deal for Mesa Ridge than it is for Pine Creek (8-1, 4-0), which has already locked down the Southern League after blanking Widefield 43-0 last week. Mesa Ridge (5-4, 2-2) is in a precarious position, but the playoffs within reach for the Grizzlies, who enter the week No. 18 in the RPI. They’ll get the strength-of-schedule boost for playing against Pine Creek, and an upset victory would likely be enough to move them into the field of 16. They’ll need stars DJ King and John Hubbard-Johnson to shine brightly in this one to overthrow the No. 2 Eagles.
Brighton at Broomfield (7 p.m., Friday)
Neither of these squads are going to catch Loveland for the Longs Peak League crown, but the postseason isn’t out of the question. Brighton (6-3, 3-1), which had a four-game winning streak snapped last week with a loss to Loveland, sits at No. 15 in the RPI. Broomfield’s late-season surge — the Eagles (5-4, 3-1) have won three straight — have moved them up to No. 20, and a win here gives them at least a chance to move into the top 16. Brighton will be looking to retool after managing only six rushing yards in the 34-12 loss to Loveland.
Vista Ridge at Rampart (7 p.m., Friday)
Lots of variables here, as the Pikes Peak League title remains up for grabs. What’s clear is that if Rampart (7-2, 4-0) wins, the Rams will clinch the title outright. If Vista Ridge (6-3, 3-1) wins, it could forge a three-way tie with Montrose atop the league. In that scenario, Vista Ridge can nab the tiebreaker if the Wolves win this one by at least eight points. Confused yet? Don’t worry — it will all get sorted out. Both teams feature a balanced attack, and Vista Ridge running backs Jaylen Thomas and Jeffrey Crittendon each have rushed for eight TDs. Rampart’s Keion Cross has rushed for nine.
Pueblo West at Widefield (7 p.m., Friday)
Pueblo West (8-1, 3-1) can’t win the Southern League, but the Cyclones and running back Pierre Taylor are in good shape. They sit at No. 4 in the RPI and will aim to solidify that spot by finishing strong. Things are much more uncertain for Widefield (6-3, 2-2), which is currently locking down the final playoff spot according to the RPI. The Gladiators will get the strength-of-schedule boost here, but a loss will leave them in uncertain territory as other squads clamor to reach the top 16. Quarterback TJ Davis has accounted for a combined 27 passing and rushing TDs for Widefield.
Also in action is No. 3 Chatfield vs. Heritage (7 p.m., Friday), as the Chargers aim to cap an unscathed run through the Plains League. The Chargers (8-1, 4-0) have already clinched the league crown by virtue of a 38-17 win against Dakota Ridge last week. Fourth-ranked Fruita Monument has already locked down the Plains League, and the Wildcats (9-0, 4-0) will look to cap an unbeaten regular season Thursday night at Wheat Ridge (7 p.m.).
The same goes for Longs Peak League champ and No. 5 Loveland (9-0, 4-0), which will attempt to enter the playoffs unscathed with a season-closing contest at Greeley West (11 a.m., Saturday). The host Spartans are No. 21 in the RPI and are in need of an upset here and plenty of help.  
No. 6 Windsor locked down the Northern League last week by virtue of a bonkers 56-55 overtime win against No. 10 Skyline, and the Wizards (8-1, 4-0) will close at Fort Collins (7 p.m., Friday) in search of an eighth straight win. The league includes three ranked teams, including No. 9 Monarch (7-2, 2-2), which will play at Greeley Central (7 p.m., Friday). Also Friday night, Skyline (7-2, 2-2) will take on Mountain View.