Not that one could consider Chatfield as an old folks’ home, but the Chargers seem to be overrun by seniors.
Head coach Bret McGatlin simply loves it.
“You know what, I mean, our senior group is just tremendous,” he said. “These kids are (high)-character kids, first of all, but also one of the most-competitive and close-knit groups I’ve had in a long time. We have 40 seniors. I don’t think I’ve ever had 30 … maybe 30, once.
Indeed, the Class 4A Chargers, 3-1 in 2017, with all of their 12th-graders bring to mind the great Cherry Creek teams of the 1970s and 1980s, when legendary coach Fred Tesone and the big-school Bruins used to, as coaches would say (and lament), ”out-senior everyone.”
And since this is a contact sport where physical maturity and age remain determining factors, it obviously helped last week, when the Chargers took down longtime Jefferson County-rival and nearby Columbine 35-14. It was just the second time in 12 seasons — and 13 meetings — that a McGatlin-coached Chatfield team handled perhaps its main nemesis, the rugged, rushing Rebels, the five-time state champions who have shown they can bang with any team in the state.
“Columbine is a different animal physically and beat us up for so many years,” McGatlin said, “but it was completely opposite this year. They have such a tough offense to defend and you have to stop so many things. Our game plan was as simple as you can find, mostly responsibility football.”
The Chargers, ranked No. 3 in the latest CHSAANow.com poll, held Columbine to 221 yards rushing as there’s probably not a coach in the state who wouldn’t embrace that total or just the two touchdowns. Graham Metzler, Justin Barley, Cameron Manzanares, Keland Rumsey, Tim Monroe, Griffin Moses, Chandler Callejo and Cameron Miller headed the tackling parade.
And only Barley isn’t a senior.
Another terrific aspect of the group, McGatlin said, “is they don’t care who gets the glory. They just want to go win. It’s crazy, we knew we had good team, but we didn’t know where we stood.”
True. Chatfield opened by falling to Braden River of Bradenton, Fla., 49-32, then waxed Palmer and Wheat Ridge by an aggregate 109-7. The two locals enter Week 5 a combined 1-7.
With experience to go around, as multiple Chargers have been starters since being sophomores, McGatlin also likes the fact that his up-front people can give them chances on both sides of the ball, as they did against Columbine.
“No matter what, you have to win the battle up front,” he said. “It has been a long time for us to have those types of guys to do it.”
The Chargers will host undefeated Widefield (of Security) on Friday night in nonleague at Jeffco Stadium (7 p.m.) as 4A hits the midway point of the regular season. The Gladiators have gotten superb quarterback play from TJ Davis, who has thrown for seven touchdowns without an interception and run for six additional scores.
Other matchups to keep tabs on in Week 5 include:
Broomfield at Monarch (7 p.m., Thursday)
The Monarch defense has been outright beastly, having surrendered a mere 30 points in the No. 8 Coyotes’ 4-0 start. The unit, led by Ben Fuchs, Ethan Plott, Keegan Feenstra, Jack Kapushion and others, hasn’t permitted more than 13 points in a game. That has allowed running back Cole Polluconi and the Coyotes offense to grind out games in their methodical manner. Broomfield (2-2) and quarterback Steven Croell will be looking for a first signature win of the season, as the Eagles have alternated losses and wins in the early going. Croell has been steady (515 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) but hasn’t had a true breakout performance in 2017.
Discovery Canyon at Vista Ridge (7 p.m., Friday)
Each team enters 2-2 and is coming off a loss last week. With the standards set at each program, you can bet neither of them is enamored by the prospect of falling below .500 at the midway point. Vista Ridge can take solace in that its two losses were against arguably the best defenses in 4A in Windsor and Pine Creek. If coach Jeremy Calip’s team can catch a groove here, there will be no shame in those early-season setbacks. Discovery Canyon, coming off an appearance in the 3A championship game, will aim to catch a groove with its multifaceted running attack. Five Thunder players have rushed for over 100 yards in the first four games, led by Marshall Pike’s 252.
Grand Junction Central at Montrose (7 p.m., Friday)
Conventional wisdom indicates that playoff time is in November. It’s effectively now for these two, who can ill-afford another loss if they want to be in the postseason picture. After three heart-stoppers, Montrose (2-2) finally had a breathe-easy win last week against Grand Junction. Sam Collins rushed for 225 yards and four touchdowns in the 35-7 victory. Central’s 1-3 mark might not look pretty, but the Warriors have played some good football. They lost in overtime to Palisade in the opener and were nipped 21-20 last week by Fruita Monument. Strong safety Shaun Stepisnik already has registered 56 tackles for the Warriors.
Brighton at Fort Collins (7 p.m., Friday)
This is another one with potential early playoff ramifications. Each team enters 2-2 and with hopes of entering the home stretch with momentum. Fort Collins was slowed down 41-7 by a powerful Loveland squad last week, and the Lambkins will look to rebound by continuing to seek big plays in the passing game. With receivers such as Abbi Asseged and Jake Leone on the outside, Fort Collins is averaging 17.8 yards per completed pass. Brighton carried a 10-7 halftime lead against Monarch last week before falling to the Coyotes 14-10. Senior Jes Ramirez has rushed for four touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
Additional ranked teams in action Friday night include top-ranked Pine Creek vs. Ralston Valley, No. 2 Ponderosa vs. Pueblo Centennial, No. 4 Windsor vs. Grand Junction, No. 5 Loveland vs. Mountain View, No. 6 Pueblo West vs. Coronado, No. 9 Pueblo South at Pueblo East and No. 10 Skyline at Niwot. Seventh-ranked Fruita Monument has a bye week.