ARVADA — How do you avoid a letdown against an inferior rival after knocking off another rival and the state’s top-ranked team the week before? …
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ARVADA — How do you avoid a letdown against an inferior rival after knocking off another rival and the state’s top-ranked team the week before?
For third-ranked Ralston Valley, two big plays on offense to start the game followed by two Arvada West turnovers sparked a 48-7 victory last Friday night at the North Area Athletic Complex that left the Mustangs one win away from the 5A North Metro League championship.
A letdown seemed possible, considering Ralston Valley was coming off a 30-22 win over Pomona and now had to face a its other intra-city Arvada rival - a young A-West team with a 2-5 record.
But, “Our guys know who it is,’’ said Mustangs coach Matt Loyd. “We don’t talk about opponents that much. But (the players) aren’t dumb; they know who we’re playing. And records really don’t mean anything when you’re playing a school that’s a couple of miles away. So we had to come ready to go.’’
“It was a big win last week, but we knew we had to move on,’’ added quarterback Jacob Knipp. “We had a pretty focused week but came out a little bit slow in the first half. But we really came together in the second half.’’
A-West might disagree with Knipp’s assessment of the start of the game.
John Morales broke a 52-yard run on Ralston Valley’s second play from scrimmage, setting up the first of three touchdown runs by Carlos Gonzales.
On the first play of the next possession, Knipp hit Hunter Price on a 91-yard scoring bomb for a 14-0 lead just over six minutes into the first quarter.
Two Wildcat fumbles by running back Claude Neloms - one on a pitchout from the A-West 27-yard line leading to another Gonzales TD, the other on a handoff from quarterback Allen Martin at the Mustangs’ 1 - made it 20-0 instead of a possible Wildcats lead.
A-West cut the deficit to 20-7 by marching 61 yards behind the running of Neloms (92 yards on 15 carries), but the Mustangs drove 80 and 42 yards for TDs on their first two possessions of the second half.
The Wildcats then turned the ball over inside the Mustang 20 on a Martin interception off a tipped pass.
“You just can’t make mistakes against good teams,’’ said A-West coach Greg Whisler. “They make you pay, and Ralston Valley made us pay. They took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of ours.’’
A big difference in the game was the passing of Knipp. The junior hit 14 of his first 17 passes to five different receivers and finished with 213 yards and two touchdowns (also a 14-yarder to Morales). Martin was 5-of-12 for 65 yards and the Wildcats netted 81 yards passing.
“He throws it pretty well and we’re obviously going to keep working on that,’’ Loyd said. “Hopefully we can make progress every week.’’
The return of Gonzales, who had not played since suffering a foot injury in the second game, helped offset the limited availability of leading rusher Andrew Wingard, who was under the weather.
Gonzales rushed 10 times for 62 yards, and Morales led the way with 104 yards on five carries. Morales had a 32-yard run on the opening drive of the second half to go with his 52-yarder.
Ralston Valley, which has won five straight since a 29-25 loss to top-ranked ThunderRidge, closes the regular season Thursday against Legacy. “We want to complete the league championship,’’ Loyd said. “Legacy’s always a well-prepared team for us. Hopefully we can take care of business, but I know that team’s going to bring it and try to go for the upset.’’
Now it’s A-West’s turn for the back-to-back, intra-city rivals test as the Wildcats face Pomona on Friday.
“Our season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to go,’’ Whisler said. “But we knew we were in games and we knew we were a better team than our record shows. But your record is what your record is.’’
“I feel like we fight every game,’’ said Martin, who hurt his shoulder early in the fourth quarter and gave way briefly to Marcus Culhane, last year’s starter. “We’ve just got to keep working hard. And it doesn’t help that we’re a young team. But we’ve got one more year together and we’re all going to work hard to figure it out.’’
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