ARVADA — Rivalry games can be interesting and unpredictable.

“In rivalry games records don’t matter. Nothing matters,” Ralston Valley coach Jared Yannacito said after his No. 4 ranked Mustangs faced cross-town rival Arvada West. “(A-West) played a tremendous game. Again we faced adversity, but I’m super proud of how they responded.”

Ralston Valley responded by scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half to take a 27-14 victory Thursday night at the North Area Athletic Complex. It was the regular-season finale for both squad that more than likely will make the 24-team field of the Class 5A state tournament.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“Coming into it we knew is was going to be a battle. That is just how rivalry games go,” Ralston Valley senior Jackson Hansen said. “We regrouped in the locker room at halftime. We stuck together and came away with the win.”

A-West (5-5, 2-3 in 5A Jeffco) held a 14-10 halftime lead. The Wildcats got a pair of touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Logan Duhachek to give A-West the lead over the Mustangs (8-2, 4-1).

Duhachek hit sophomore Noah Meurer for an 8-yard touchdown with 5:30 left before halftime. The sophomore signal-caller orchestrated a 2-minute drive to perfection throwing a 26-yard touchdown to sophomore Ayden Garcia with 4.8 seconds left before halftime to put the Wildcats up 14-10 at the break.

“(A-West) had a good game plan and we adjusted at halftime,” Ralston Valley senior quarter Logan Madden said. “We came out and got it done.”

The Mustangs struck quickly with Hansen taking a slip screen pass from Madden 70 yards to the end zone in the first minute of the third quarter to give the lead back to Ralston Valley 17-14.

“We always want to come out strong in the third quarter. Especially after not having a very good first half,” Hansen said. “I had great blocks on the first touchdown.”

Hansen came up big again early in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 24-14 on a 15-yard touchdown catch on a fourth-down play.

“Those two together made a big play together when it is needed,” Yannacito said of Madden and Hansen who have connected for 13 touchdowns as a tandem this season. “They have done it forever from little league until high school. They make clutch plays when they need to no matter how the game is going.”

Ralston Valley sophomore kicker Cole Pfeifer kicked his second field goal of the game to put the Mustangs up 27-14 with less than 2 minutes to play. Senior safety Jacob LaBarbera sealed the win with his second interception of the night on the final play of the game.

LaBarbera actually had the Mustangs lone touchdown in the first half with a defensive score. A-West sophomore running back Jaiden Green had a nice run near midfield, but senior Jack Wagner put a big hit on Green to pop the ball loose.

“That was crazy. Jack Wagner punched the ball out with his helmet and it was right there for me,” LaBarera said of his 48-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 1:35 left in the first quarter. “I was just blank when I got that ball. I just had to score.”

Ralston Valley finished the regular season on a 3-game winning streak after its lone league loss to No. 2 Columbine (9-0, 4-0) back on Oct. 6. The Mustangs will likely get a top-8 seed for the state tournament that will give Ralston Valley a bye next week and host a second-round game the following week at NAAC.

“You get healthy and we want to stay mentally sharp,” Yannacito said of treating the likely bye with a top-8 seed. “We’ll really focus this week on what we need to do to get better.”

A-West was sitting No. 21 in the CHSAA Selection & Seeding Index after the loss. The Wildcats will make the state tournament and could be a tough team to handle next week despite being a lower seed.

“Give props to Arvada West. They had a great game plan, but we fight. We fight to the end,” Hansen said. “It worked out today.”