After registering a blowout win and somehow losing ground in the rankings, Pueblo West football players have to be wondering what more they can do to capture the attention of the statewide audience.
We have the answer: defeat Pine Creek.
The Cyclones (6-0), who dropped one spot to No. 7 this week in the CHSAANow.com poll despite a 34-7 win over Air Academy, will get that opportunity this week. They’ll travel to District 20 Stadium on Thursday night and put their unbeaten mark on the line against a No. 3 Pine Creek squad that has won three of the past four Class 4A crowns.
Pine Creek (5-1) has lost only to 5A Ralston Valley and continues to be considered the classification’s favorite in many circles. Sophomore running back David Moore has rushed for 769 yards and 11 touchdowns, and defensive backs Xavier Hill and Max Lofy have picked off four passes apiece.
Pueblo West has the opportunity to make a mammoth proclamation in a contest that will go a long way toward determining the champ of the Southern League. The Cyclones and longtime coach Monte Pinkerton are getting lights-out production from running back Pierre Taylor, who has taken over the primary role with Devyn Morgan sidelined the past few weeks by a knee injury. Taylor has accumulated 446 yards on the ground and seven TDs over the past three weeks.
The Cyclones have registered one win against a ranked team this season — a 55-54 double-overtime win against now-No. 9 Pueblo South — but a victory here would undoubtedly elevate their statewide profile.
That contest will take center state this weekend along with the Nos. 5-6 matchup of Windsor and Monarch. Here’s a look at a few of the additional noteworthy games this week, including that one.
Golden at Dakota Ridge (4 p.m., Thursday)
Dakota Ridge has been fighting for its playoff life since the conclusion of Week 4, and that quest continues this week. So far, so good as the Eagles (3-3) have won their past two games, including a 43-36 thriller against Gateway last week in the Plains League opener. Jered Garcia rushed for 227 yards and four scores in that one — he added a TD reception as well — and will look to keep it going against a Golden squad that will be eager to rebound. The Demons (4-2) took one on the chin in a 52-0 loss to No. 2 Chatfield last week, which put an end to a four-game winning streak. Scott Holman and Joe Madsen each have found the end zone six times for the Demons.
Monarch at Windsor (7 p.m., Friday)
Monarch might still be trying to sort out the whirlwind that was their 52-42 triumph over No. 10 Skyline last week, in which the Coyotes had a running back who scored five touchdowns (Justin Kiss, who ran for 298 yards) and surrendered four to another in Skyline’s Jeremy Hollingsworth. The contest didn’t particularly adhere to Monarch’s ball-control style, but the No. 6 Coyotes (6-0) proved that they can maintain pace with another high-powered offense. With the bruising Windsor defense awaiting, things could revert back to smash-mouth football in a hurry. The No. 5 Wizards (5-1) have only lost to Pine Creek and are permitting a mere 11 points per game. Quarterback Connor Apodaca enters the Northern League showdown as the Wizards’ leading rusher with 448 yards and seven TDs.
Broomfield at Greeley West (7 p.m., Friday)
Broomfield advanced to the state championship game last season. Without a win here, simply qualifying for the playoffs will be a long shot. The Eagles (2-4) have endured a difficult schedule and the sailing gets significantly smoother after this one, but they need to be at peak efficiency in this Longs Peak League battle. Greeley West (4-2) is on a modest two-game winning streak, and the Spartans have postseason ambitions of their own. Derek West and Dorrean Starks each are on pace for a 1,000-yard season out of the backfield for the Spartans, who made the long trip to the Western Slope last weekend and defeated Grand Junction 20-7.
Montrose at Rampart (7 p.m., Friday)
It can be argued that Montrose is the most battle-tested team in the state through the first six weeks. Coach Brett Mertens’ Indians (4-2, 1-0) have already played four games decided by one score and have won two of them, including last week’s 28-21 triumph over Vista Ridge. If the Indians had pulled out the other two — both one-point losses — we might be talking about a top-five team. They’ll look to keep it going against a Rampart (4-2, 1-0) squad that got back on track last week with a sizable win against Littleton in the Southern League opener. The Rams rushed for 428 yards in the 42-7 victory.
Air Academy at Widefield (7 p.m., Friday)
Both of these teams have been cooled down after hot starts, but the winner of this one will emerge 5-2 and with a key Southern League win. Air Academy, led by running back Zach Martin, had won four straight before falling 34-7 to Pueblo West last week. Widefield has dropped two straight after a 4-0 start, but to worthy opponents in Chatfield and Mesa Ridge. Elijah Valdez and John Hubbard-Johnson each topped the 100-yard mark for the Gladiators in the 42-30 loss to Mesa Ridge. While these squads aren’t likely to challenge Pine Creek of Pueblo West for the league title, a high finish would put them in the mix for a playoff berth.
Additional ranked teams in action this week include No. 4 Loveland vs. Niwot on Thursday; top-ranked Ponderosa at Sand Creek, No. 2 Chatfield at Adams City and No. 10 Skyline vs. Greeley Central on Friday; and No. 8 Fruita Monument at Thornton and No. 9 Pueblo South at Liberty on Saturday.