If we had told you at the outset of the season that three Class 4A football teams would enter Week 8 undefeated, Fruita Monument probably would not have been among your first guesses.
The other two – Ponderosa and Loveland – certainly wouldn’t have qualified as shockers. But Fruita Monument indeed has joined those squads, and the Wildcats are receiving the requisite love in the polls. They are ranked No. 5 by Colorado Preps this week and check in at No. 6 in the CHSAANow.com poll.
Fruita Monument’s prospects for an unbeaten regular season – and more importantly, a Mountain League championship – heavily hinge on Friday’s contest at Standley Lake (4 p.m., North Area Athletic Conference). The Gators (6-1) have had a solid season, as well, and are eager to knock the Wildcats off their lofty perch.
Senior Braeden Graham has already rushed for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Wildcats while junior Treyton Queen has added 709 on the ground and eight TDs. Sophomore Max Belshe and senior Ryan Ficken, a pair of linebackers, have spearheaded the defense.
Coach Todd Casebier’s Wildcats have already eked out two wins decided by one point: a 36-35 decision against Montrose in the opener and a 21-20 triumph against Grand Junction Central in Week 5. They’ll aim to keep it going against a Standley Lake squad that has lost to only 5A Arvada West, which is 5-2 overall in the big-school classification.
The T-Dub combo has been stellar for coach Don Morse’s Gators. Senior running back Ty Webber has rushed for 811 yards and 10 touchdowns, and junior receiver Tyler Williams has been a big-play threat on the outside with five TD receptions. Junior Ryan Biller leads the way on defense with 72 tackles and four sacks.
This matchup is among the best and most notable of the week, joining these others:
Dakota Ridge at Heritage (6 p.m., Thursday)
Call this one the Keeping Up With Chatfield . . . For Now Bowl. Each team enters 2-0 in the Plains League and is keeping pace with the No. 2 Chargers for the moment. The winner will stay on the pace and make a continued push for the postseason. Dakota Ridge (4-3 overall) has won three straight and knows the importance of this one with Chatfield waiting in the wings next week. Heritage has won two straight since starting 0-5, but the Eagles maintain faint postseason hopes, hinging on whether they can run the table in league play.
Greeley West at Brighton (7 p.m., Friday)
This one has definite playoff ramifications, as Brighton checks in No. 17 in the RPI this week and Greeley West No. 18. Brighton (5-2, 2-0) also has the opportunity to stay neck-and-neck with Loveland in the Longs Peak League standings. The Bulldogs have won three straight and senior Jes Ramirez ran for four TDs last week in a blowout win over Grand Junction. Greeley West (4-3, 1-1) endured a difficult 28-7 home loss to Broomfield last week and hopes to rebound behind the stellar running back combo of Derek West and Dorrean Starks.
Coronado at Montrose (7 p.m., Friday)
The Pikes Peak League standings suddenly have become crowded with four teams deadlocked at 1-1. These two are amongst that fray and fighting for their playoff lives here. Coronado (3-4) has dropped three of four since a hot start, and running back Troy Renner and the Cougars would like nothing more than to hand Montrose another close loss. The Indians (4-3) had already dropped two one-point decisions this season then were edged 17-13 in a grind-it-out affair at Rampart last week. Five of the Indians’ seven games have been decided by one score or less, but the Indians remain in good shape at No. 12 in the RPI.
Pueblo West at Mesa Ridge (7 p.m., Friday)
After losing 21-14 to Pine Creek last week for their first defeat of the season, No. 7 Pueblo West (6-1, 1-1) trails both Pine Creek and Mesa Ridge in the Southern League. The Cyclones can jump right back into the fray with a win here. They made quite a game of it after trailing Pine Creek 14-0 at the half and took away many positives from the narrow loss. Mesa Ridge (5-2, 2-0) won’t have much sympathy and hope the Cyclones will be searching for only moral victories after this one. It will be a tall task, but the Grizzlies have moved the ball well this season behind quarterback DJ King (14 touchdowns, four interceptions). Juwan Edgerton caught three TDs last week for the Grizzlies in a win against Pueblo Centennial.
Fort Collins at Skyline (1 p.m., Saturday)
The Northern League features four 1-1 teams chasing league-leading Windsor, and these two are among that fray. Fort Collins has had an up-and-down season, but the Lambkins (3-4) outlasted Mountain View 34-31 last week and hope to be playing their best football in the final few weeks of the regular season. This one has the makings of a shootout, as fast-paced Skyline (6-1) averages 54 points a game. The Falcons will surrender some points, too, as witnessed in a 70-44 win against Greeley Central last weekend. Jeremy Hollingsworth rushed for 362 yards and six touchdowns in that one, a crowning performance in a season in which he’s already racked up 1,391 yards on the ground and 26 TDs.
Also of note, top-ranked Ponderosa has shut out its past three opponents and four of its past five. Jaron Cohen’s Mustangs will look to keep that going Friday night at home against Grand Junction Central.
That contest somewhat typifies the slate for ranked squads this week, as many play exceedingly winnable games. Others in action include No. 2 Pine Creek at Air Academy, No. 3 Windsor at Greeley Central (7 p.m., Thursday), No. 4 Chatfield at Gateway, No. 6 Loveland at Grand Junction (6 p.m., Thursday), No. 8 Pueblo South at Cheyenne Mountain, No. 9 Monarch vs. Mountain View and No. 10 Rampart at Palmer. All games feature a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday night unless specified otherwise.