Ralston Valley punches ticket to semis with win over Columbine

Dennis Pleuss
Jeffco Public Schools
Posted 11/29/22

ARVADA — First-year head coach Jared Yannacito has his Ralston Valley Mustangs stampeding to the Class 5A football semifinals.

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Ralston Valley punches ticket to semis with win over Columbine


ARVADA — First-year head coach Jared Yannacito has his Ralston Valley Mustangs stampeding to the Class 5A football semifinals.

“It was a one play at a time mentality that we preached all week,” Yannacito said. “The kids executed.”

The No. 3-seeded Mustangs defeated 5A Jeffco League rival Columbine 28-7 in a state quarterfinal Saturday, Nov. 19, at the North Area Athletic Complex. 

“It’s huge. I think it’s big for the community because everyone remembers 2019 when Columbine beat us,” said Ralston Valley junior quarterback Logan Madden, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran in a third score. “I think everyone had that in the back of their minds. We want this to be a new era of Ralston Valley football. That is what we are doing.”

The No. 6 Rebels struck first with an impressive 9-play, 46-yard scoring drive on the opening possession. Senior quarterback Brayden Harvey hit junior Spencer Houle for a 10-yard touchdown with 6:59 left in the first quarter, but it was all Mustangs (10-2 record) after that.

“The defense defintely had another amazing game,” Ralston Valley coach Jared Yannacito said. “After that first drive they really settled in and did their jobs. We told them it was going to be a four-quarter battle and the entire team stepped up in every aspect.”

The Mustangs scored 28 unanswered points. Senior Brayden Schatz had a huge kickoff return for a touchdown following Columbine’s lone touchdown. 

“Schatz is explosive. When he gets the ball into his hands he can do whatever,” Madden said. “The blockers did great on that kickoff return as well.”

Madden threw a pair of red zone touchdown passes to junior Jackson Hansen in the second quarter to extend the lead to 21-7 at halftime.

Ralston Valley forced five Rebel turnovers during the game in the shutout of Columbine (10-2) after the Rebels’ first drive of the game.

“We couldn’t give them any long ones. That would change the game,” Ralston Valley senior defensive back Jason Thome said. “We had to keep everything in front of us and then going for the football really changed the game.”

Thome has a fumble recovery in the first half and then a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

“You kind of know what is coming when Columbine had to throw,” Thome said after grabbing two fourth-quarter interceptions to seal the win. 

The first meeting this season was an epic at Jeffco Stadium. Ralston Valley edged Columbine 16-13 on Oct. 7 at Jeffco Stadium. Senior running back Diano Benallo’s rushing touchdown with less than a minute to go gave Ralston Valley the win and eventually went on to take the 5A Jeffco League title.

“These kids believe in the vision. They believe in each other,” Yannacito said. “They play as a family and as a team. Whenever that happens the sky is the limit.”

Ralston Valley will travel to Highlands Ranch for the 5A semifinals next week on either Friday or Saturday. No. 2 Valor Christian got revenge against No. 7 Regis on Nov. 18 in the first 5A quarterfinal game that was played. After the Eagles suffered an early season loss to the Raiders, Valor took care of business last night with a 45-28 victory.

Valor’s first-year head coach Bret McGatlin — who coached Chatfield to the 4A state title a year ago before leaving for Valor — has the Eagles on an 8-game winning streak. 

“We went through a gauntlet at the beginning of the season,” Thome said referring to losses against No. 1 Cherry Creek and No. 2 Valor, but victories over state quarterfinalist Grandview and Regis. “We are built for playoff football.”

Ralston Valley is on seven game win streak. Last loss was to Valor 27-23 on Sept. 23.

“It is who we want,” Thome said of the rematch against Valor.

Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.

Ralston Valley, Arvada, Jeffco, Football, school sports


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