Through the first two weeks of the season, Class 4A football has started developing serious league championship contenders and the weeding out process continues with several more matchups of note on tap this weekend. Each involves a battle of league leaders or third place teams trying to stay relevant in the conference title discussion.
FEATURE PHOTO PROVIDED BY MIKE VRANA / VISTA RIDGE FOOTBALL
First up is a big one between Montrose and Vista Ridge in the Southern 1. Both teams are 2-0 in conference play so the winner will stand alone in first. Montrose is ranked #1 by the coaches and Vista Ridge is #10. They are also sitting third and eighth in this week’s RPI polling.
The game features major contrasts in offensive style. Montrose would love a game where they have to throw it less than five times. That means they would be producing 70, 80, 90 yard drives and dominating time of possession. Vista Ridge seeks balance with their play calling as they have run the ball 123 times and thrown in 163 but nearly 75 percent of their yardage comes through the air through the right arm of Brayden Dorman and a highly talented crew of receivers.
Dorman enters the week with 1,502 yards and 19 TDs and his top three receivers all average at least 15 yards per catch. Brandon Hills has 34 catches for 10 TDs, Kyshawn Bridges 22 with five scores and Keyshawn Dooley 22 with three scores. Combined, they have over 1,300 yards in receptions.
Another key is the Wolves defense as they can give the Wolves offense more chances by getting Montrose off the field. They faced a run dominated team in Windsor back in week one and gave up 280 yards rushing. That number jumped to 319 against Pine Creek.
A second battle of league leaders shapes up in the same fashion as Loveland meets Longmont. Each has won their first two games inside the Northern 2 and the winner takes over the top spot. Great tradition between the two clubs as well as they’ve combined for 105 playoff wins together.
Offensive execution again the key in this one as Longmont features an explosive offense that can score in bunches but the bigger question may be if the defense can get Loveland off the field. The Indians are content to get four yards per play, move the sticks, run down the clock and score touchdowns at the end of long drives.
That strategy worked to perfection in last year’s state championship win over Palmer Ridge and has worked six of seven games this year. The exception came against Ralston Valley where the Red Wolves did not have their quarterback Garrett Harstad in the lineup.
Harstad ran for 131 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win over Skyline (48-0). Drew Foley added 94 yards and two scores with Trent Stephenson (53) and Brandon Hensel (52) combining for 105. The defense pitched the shutout behind Ian Loomis (9 tackles), Dylan Lindgren (7) and Caden Stansbury (7).
Longmont has 254 points in seven games this year and has proven they can score on anyone. But they’ve also given up 259 so if they get the win, the outcome will likely be high scoring. The defense has forced 13 turnovers including 10 fumble recoveries and may need a couple of those this week.
Offensively, no player has better stats in Class 4A than Keegan Patterson. The senior has thrown for 2,137 yards and 18 TDs with another 388 yards and 13 scores on the ground. He’s been involved in all but four of the Trojans 35 touchdowns.
There might be an elimination game in the I-25 conference as Widefield visits Falcon. Both clubs are 2-0 in conference games and are tied with Cheyenne Mountain in first place. Since only the league champion can earn a playoff bid, the loser this week will be in a tough situation and have only two weeks to recover from the loss. Cheyenne Mountain still has games with both teams as they face Falcon next week and close with the Gladiators.
Both teams have been dominant in league play thus far; Widefield has allowed just six points in beating Palmer and Thornton. Falcon has blanked both Liberty and Flacon while scoring 75 points on offense.
The Falcons want to run the football behind the tandem of Darius McFarland (457 yards) and Carter Thorp (328). Overall, they average 217 yards per game.
Widefield runs for 161 yards and passes for 106 each game. They’ve scored 17 touchdowns this year. The defense has 11 sacks and created 10 turnovers including two interceptions apiece from DJ Allen and Josh Deal.
The Metro 1 has four teams in the top 11 of RPI and two of them collide on Friday when Chatfield takes on Golden. Despite the unbeaten record, the Demons are just 10th in RPI with Chatfield and their two losses sitting in seventh. The difference is scheduling as the Chargers opponents have a winning record of 64 percent compared to 38 for the Demons.
Should be a great game. The Demons were probably looking ahead to this one as they clubbed Wheat Ridge 42-0. They led just 14-0 at halftime then used two scores in both the third and fourth quarters to pull away. They ran the football with Luc Chevalier getting 130 yards and Jazel Riley 116. They combined for three scores. Riley also added another 114 yards through the air. The defense earned a combined 15 tackles from Ridge Shaffer (8) and Johnny Meyers (7).
Chatfield is coming off a tough 14-10 loss to Bear Creek. It was their second loss in three games and despite the high RPI ranking, they did fall out of the top 10. Another loss should take them out the league championship but even with another loss, the Chargers are easily a playoff team.
Turnovers were a major issue last week as the Chargers lost four fumbles and threw an interception. Despite those miscues, they moved the football well; generating 217 yards rushing and 132 passing. Joe Walker and Mason Cowgill each had six catches as Anthony Adams threw for 132 yards. Jake Marschall collected 112 yards rushing and scored the Chargers lone touchdown.
Dakota Ridge is also 2-0 in conference play and is 9th in RPI. They host Wheat Ridge this week and then close with back to back games against Golden and Chatfield so there is lot of football left in the Metro 1.
Aurora Central and Denver South are tied for the Metro 2 lead (2-0) and both are favored to stay there this week. Aurora Central is heavily favored against winless Gateway but the Ravens could get pushed by a solid Centaurus club. the Warriors lost their league opener to Vista Peak (44-12) but stayed in contention for the league title by handling Gateway 43-0 last week. It was their third win in four games. Another this week gives them their most wins since 2016 and a chance a winning record for the first time since 2015 (7-3).
Chance Wood led the Warriors with 247 yards passing and a touchdown. Jack Downing (5) and Ethan Roeder (4) combined for nine receptions and 148 yards. Roeder had the TD catch. Anthony Medina (110 yards) and Ben Mischke (83) were also effective on the ground as the Warriors finished with 211 yards.
Denver South played Gateway two weeks ago and beat the Olympians 47-0 so the comparison scores are very close. The Ravens have quality wins over Standley Lake (34-27) and Broomfield (48-40) but none of their victories are against teams with winning records.
Last week, South exploded past Grand Junction 56-14 as Joe Capra tossed two touchdown passes and now have five over the past two weeks. Rashad Caldwell had four catches and two scores against Gateway and reached the end zone again last week. He and Dominic McGath combined for 11 catches in the win.
Fruita Monument is coming off a tough loss to Fountain Fort Carson (42-28) last week and now must take out Pueblo West to stay in the Southern 2 discussion. The Wildcats are still 18th in RPI and in good shape for a playoff berth. Pueblo West opened 2-2 with losses coming to highly ranked Palmer Ridge and Pine Creek but has won their last three and is now all the way to sixth in RPI.
Fruita Monument ran for 294 including 161 yards and two scores from Wyatt Sharpe but the offense also had two costly turnovers. The defense struggled in preventing big plays from FFC standout Dezmen Oliver who finished with 225 yards and four TDs.
West topped Mesa Ridge 35-14 last week; scoring 14 fourth quarter points to finally open up the game a bit. The defense was solid. They limited the Grizzlies to 48 yards rushing and while they allowed 203 passing, the Grizzlies were just 17 of 38 on attempts. Sonntag Porter was a major reason why as he collected four sacks. Jacob Trader added 11 tackles and Evan Bonetta seven.
Fountain Fort Carson shares first place with Pueblo West atop the standings. The Trojans meet Rampart this week and then tangle with West in week nine.
Erie and Broomfield (both 2-0) head up the Northern 1 division. They collide next week and that game will be for the league title if both get wins this week. Erie is heavily favored at winless Greeley West while Broomfield may get pushed by Brighton. The matchup is also very important to RPI standings as both are on the playoff bubble for wildcard bids; Broomfield is 23rd in RPI and Brighton 25th.
Broomfield has beaten Windsor (18-10) and Silver Creek (33-17) in league play. Cole Lacrue tossed four TDs in last week’s win with two going to Josh Dunn. The Eagles also ran for 155 yards. Against Windsor, the key was defense as the Eagles limited the Wizards to just 184 yards on the ground.
Defense has been a concern of Brighton of late. They’ve dropped two of their last three games; giving up 54 points to Dakota Ridge in week five and 47 to Erie last week. Dakota Ridge had 439 yards of offense and Erie 429 so Broomfield believes they can move the football. Nathanial Griffeth is the key for Brighton as he threw for 293 yards last week and has 1,217 for the season. Six of his nine scoring passes have come over the last two weeks.