Three matchups of league unbeatens top the 4A football agenda for week nine as three of the clubs have a chance to wrap conference crowns with wins. The other three need wins and losses by the third place club to clinch the top trophy.
PHOTO BY DAN MOHRMANN
We start in the I-25 conference because only the conference champion can advance to the playoffs so that makes the Falcon-Cheyenne Mountain matchup extremely important. Both are 3-0 in conference play and sit one game ahead of Widefield (2-1) in the standings. Falcon topped Widefield last week so the Falcons are the league champions and playoff qualifier with a win. Cheyenne Mountain must win and then have Widefield fall to winless Liberty to clinch this week. If not, the Red-Tailed Hawks and Gladiators meet in another important game in week ten.
Falcon led Widefield 10-7 after three quarters then tallied two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to finish with a 23-13 decision. They used the running game to control the ball for 27 minutes compared to just 21 for the Gladiators. The defense gave up 174 yards rushing and 102 through the air.
Cheyenne Mountain has not been pushed in league play; downing Thornton, Liberty and Palmer by a combined 149 points. Nico Gagliardi (648 yards) and Zach Johnson (502) are a solid one-two punch in the backfield and have combined for 20 touchdowns rushing. Bruce Archambault adds balance with 1,047 yards and 18 TDs through the air. Sullivan Moon has caught eight passes overall but six have gone for scores.
Denver South (7-1) and Aurora Central (7-1) collie for the Metro 2 lead. Aurora Central beat third place Vista Peak two weeks ago (27-7) so the Trojans are the champions with a win while the Ravens still have a game with Vista Peak on the slate next week. They only clinch if Vista Peak is upset by winless Gateway.
The outcome could come down to the matchup of South QB Joe Capra and Central defender Marcus Howard. Capra has been very good this year; throwing for 1,895 yards with 27 touchdowns. If he has time to throw, he could have a big day again this week. But that’s the question as the Trojans have 32 sacks in eight games, including 18 from Howard. If he and the rest of the defense can pressure Capra, then the Ravens will need others on offense to produce.
Howard is second with 59 tackles; Simeon Veasley leads the Trojans with 69 stops. The group has also produced 19 turnovers including two interceptions apiece by Brian Weatherford and Jacob Ingraham.
Capra has added another 508 yards and six scores in the run game. He’s directed the Ravens to 49 touchdowns and they’ve scored at least 34 points in every win. Big play receivers include Rashad Caldwell with 46 catches for 1,016 yards and 13 scores and Dominic McGath with 34 catches and 11 touchdowns.
Both clubs have won seven straight games since opening losses. Denver South is 15th in RPI and Aurora Central 21st so the loser remains very much in the wildcard chase.
Erie and Broomfield are both 3-0 in league play and square off for the top spot in the Northern 1. Broomfield clinches with a win as they’ve beaten Windsor while Erie must win this week and then get by the third place Wizards next week to claim the top prize.
The Broomfield win over Windsor changed around their season. They were 1-4 on the season but the 18-10 win started them on their current three-game winning streak which has bumped them to 19th in RPI. They added another solid win last week; beating Brighton 37-27. Cole Lacrue connected on 17 of 27 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns including two to Josh Dunn. Kaden Quintana ran for 97 and Dustin Detwiler 72 and both reached the end zone. The defense limited the Bulldogs to 88 yards but gave up 195 through the air.
While Broomfield has three league wins by a total of 34 points, Erie has beaten every team on their schedule by at least 18 points. In conference play, the three wins over Silver Creek, Brighton and Greeley West are by a combined 89 points. The Tigers could use a test to prep them for their future playoff chase. They’re battling for a top four seed and sit 5th in RPI this week.
Blake Barnett has nearly 18-hundred yards of offense and the sophomore quarterback has been involved in 28 touchdowns. Four receivers have at least 11 receptions with Caden Lettis scoring six times and Gauge Nichols four. Caleb Theisen is another big threat in the backfield, rushing for 894 yards with 12 TDs. The Tigers defense is also aggressive with 22 sacks and 15 turnovers.
Next on the schedule are three matchups involving probable playoff teams that will also factor into league championship races but are not direct pairings of league leaders.
Leading that list is the highly anticipated matchup between Dakota Ridge (8-0) and Golden (7-1). The Demons are just two points away from joining the Eagles in the unbeaten ranks as they fell to Chatfield in a wild 50-49 decision last week. A similar game could be in the offering this week as the Demons can score on any opponent and the Eagles may be even more explosive than Chatfield.
Dakota Ridge has scored at least 52 points in each of their last four games and at least 42 points in every game against an in-state opponent this year. Noah Triplett is a first-year starter at tailback but is a major weapon with 806 yards and 21 TDs on the ground. He’s also the top receiver with 20 receptions with 300 yards and three scores. QB Adam Graves needs 21 yards to reach 1,300 passing for the season and he’s tossed 14 touchdowns.
Another major scoring threat for the Eagles is Dante Capolungo. He’s tied with Connor Fitzhugh with a team-leading four touchdown catches but has also scored twice on kickoff returns and returned two interceptions for scores. The Demons will make sure to know where he lines up on every play this week.
Golden totaled 491 yards of offense in last week’s but also surrendered 462 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. They will need to do a much better job controlling Triplett than they did Chatfield’s Jake Marschall who gained 295 yards on 42 attempts.
Jazel Riley combined for over 360 yards of offense for Golden and threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score. Dalton Summers added 85 yards and a touchdown running the football while Toby Trujillo caught nine passes for 164 yards and two scores.
League wise, Dakota Ridge is alone in first and leads Golden, Bear Creek and Chatfield by one game. They clinch a championship with a win if Chatfield also falls to Standley Lake. The Gators (2-6) have just two wins, but they’re a tough out as evidenced by closes losses to Bear Creek and Denver South. They also played Golden to a 26-7 decision. And since the Gators are 26th in RPI and in playoff contention, they have plenty to play for. If Chatfield gets the win, they’ll challenge Dakota Ridge in the final week.
Vista Ridge (5-2) and Ponderosa (6-2) are two of four teams from the Southern 1 sitting in the top eight of RPI. The winner remains a strong contender for a top eight seed and first round playoff bye.
Both are 2-1 in the conference standings. The Wolves fell to Montrose last week and the Mustangs came up short to Palmer Ridge two weeks ago. Each is tied with Palmer Ridge in second and all three trail Montrose (3-0) by one game. Ponderosa meets Montrose in the final week so a win keeps them in the championship chase.
In their 42-28 loss to Montrose, the Wolves fell behind early and ran the ball just six times the entire game. Brayden Dorman attempted 46 passes; completing 27 for 331 yards and three touchdowns. That pushes him to over 18-hundred yards this season and to nearly 56-hundred for his career. He’s just a junior.
Keyshawn Bridges (10), Brandon Hills (9) and Keyshawn Dolley (7) combined for 26 catches and all three scored touchdowns.
Ponderosa has had some success against the pass as they limited Palmer Ridge to 193 yards through the air in the loss two weeks ago. It appears they kept most of the attack in front of them as the Bears completed 21 of 25 attempts but averaged less than 10 yards per completion. Andrew Heidel also threw for 214 yards and two scores for the Mustangs.
Fountain Fort Carson (7-1) clinches the Southern 2 title by beating Pueblo West (5-2) this week. The Trojans are 13th in RPI so a win also pushes them closer to a first round bye. West is 9th in RPI and sits tied with Fruita Monument (both 2-1) for second place. An upset creates a likely three-way tie for the league lead entering the final week. Fruita Monument plays at Coronado this week.
Both clubs have recent meetings with Fruita Monument, FFC won 42-28 two weeks ago while West lost 26-21 last week. The Trojans ran for 301 yards and threw for 159 yards in their win. Dezmen Oliver had a huge day; finishing with 225 yards and four scores. Tavian Tuli also threw a pair of touchdown passes. West meantime totaled just 166 yards of offense and allowed 267 yards on the ground. They will need a better effort to slow down Oliver and the explosive Trojans offense.
Loveland topped Longmont 35-14 last Saturday and now stands alone atop the Northern 2 division. They’re 3-0 with a one game edge on the Trojans, Skyline and Grand Junction Central. The Red Wolves are heavily favored against Greeley Central this week and a win gives them the championship if Skyline also beats Grand Junction Central.
The win pushed Loveland up to seventh in RPI this week so they continue to push for a first round bye that’s awarded to the top eight seeds in the newly expanded 24-team bracket. Longmont is 18th in RPI, Skyline 22nd and Grand Junction Central 25th. All three are considered to be on the playoff bubble.