When it comes to running the football, Monarch always has been one of the best teams in the state.
Monarch has battled backfield injuries this season, but coach Phil Bravo has had players fill in nicely for injured standouts Connor Dunn and Chad Elder. And when reserve Britt Shields went down in the second quarter Saturday in Monarch‘s 25-9 critical Class 4A North Metro victory against Littleton, three more players stepped to the forefront. Enter Ryan Muller, Ryan Hamlin and Tyler Slade.
Hamlin led the way, rushing 19 times for 101 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Muller chipped in with 85 yards, while Slade tallied twice as the Coyotes remained unbeaten at 8-0. Littleton dropped to 6-2.
There is little doubt Bravo is pleased with the depth the Coyotes have displayed and the way his players have responded. They are headed back to the state playoffs for the eighth time in the past 10 years, and hope to advance past the first round. They lost to Longmont 28-24 in the first round a year ago.
“We have some depth, as this is our system,” said Bravo, who coached Monarch to the state title in 2002. “A lot of these guys have run it in the lower levels so they know the system pretty well. These kids are very coachable, very responsive and work hard Monday through Thursday.
“Britt was hurt and I have no idea why we have a curse at that position,” added Bravo, who is in his 11th season at Monarch. “But Muller gets in there, he is our fourth-string tailback, and had a superb game. Hamlin is our second-string tailback and again a strong runner. We‘ll just go with these guys until we get healed up and the others back in action.”
The Coyotes have outscored opponents 302-80 this season, despite the revolving door at running back.
“We have good backups in Muller and Hamlin and we’ve all been working hard and getting some chances,” Slade said. “Our line makes the holes for whoever is running the ball and we know how to use the clock. We’re going to run the ball until they stop us. We are such a physical team, not that big, but we will hit you in the mouth, that’s all that matters.”
Added Muller: “We do have a lot of depth. Ever since Chad went out I’ve been working in the second-string running backs. I was ready to step up and I knew it was my turn to do what I can. It’s nice to know we have the guys to count on and hopefully, it’s going to take us a long way.”
The long way would be a state championship in December.
Top performances last week
Merino edged Dayspring Christian 34-29 in the battle between the top-ranked teams in Class A 8-Man. In the process, the No. 1 Rams ended defending state champion Dayspring’s 20-game winning streak. Merino’s Bryan DeSanti rushed 24 times for 177 yards and scored on a 57-yard run to highlight the Rams ground attack, while quarterback Wyatt Barber completed 7-of-13 passes for 146 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Evan Albrandt. Merino improved to 8-0 while Daysprings dropped to 7-1.
Arvada West quarterback Gavin Glanz was superb Friday in leading the Wildcats to a 49-26 victory against Bear Creek. Glanz passed for 255 yards and three touchdowns as the Wildcats improved to 7-1. Running back Isaac Fairbairn galloped for 147 yards and also scored three touchdowns for A-West.
Denver South got the jump on Denver West in more ways than one Friday in the Rebels’ 55-0 victory. Quarterback Tyler Jump tossed four touchdown passes, two to Taivon Smith, and kicked four extra points as the Rebels improved to 5-3. Jump has passed for 1,049 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
Longmont Christian’s Wes Bennett made some noise Friday, scoring six touchdowns for the Warriors as they defeated Haxtun 44-0. Bennett, who has rushed for 1,176 yards and scored 19 touchdowns this season, scored on runs of 5, 60, 50, 35, 50 and 55 yards.
Swink’s Kyle Stroud continues to make headway for the Lions (7-1), and also scored six touchdowns on runs of 40, 50, 55, 24, 14 and 35 yards, in leading the Lions to a 75-08 victory against Hanover. That makes it 28 touchdowns for Stroud, while upping his yardage to 1,924.
Weld Central’s Brandon Hoff had quite a game in the Rebels’ 38-24 victory against Strasburg. He passed for three touchdowns and scored two more on the ground.
Skyview’s Kyle Bowers also scored five times while helping pace the Wolverines to a 34-12 victory against Englewood.
Good things came in threes for Lewis-Palmer’s Levi Patrick, Buena Vista’s Dakota Johnson and Logan Asbury of Manitou Springs while leading their respective teams to victories. Patrick rushed for three scores as the Rangers defeated Air Academy 62-16. Johnson carried only seven times for 181 yards, but three went for TDs in the Demons’ 48-6 victory against Monte Vista. Asbury passed for three touchdowns in the Mustangs’ 47-0 victory against Ellicott. Asbury also intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for a score.
Games of the Week
Class 5A: Thomas Jefferson at Denver East, Friday.
This one will go a long way in deciding the Central Metro League championship. Thomas Jefferson is unbeaten in league (6-0) and a win gives the Spartans the top seed from the league outright. Denver East is 5-1 in the league. A win would give the Angels the higher league seed in the playoffs due to the head-to-head victory. Thomas Jefferson, paced this season by Matt Averyhart and Jamie Reed, has bested it six league opponents by a combined score of 211-56. Denver East has outscored its opponents 192-97.
Class 4A: Wheat Ridge at Heritage, Thursday.
No doubt this is the blockbuster of the weekend, with the West Metro League title on the line. Wheat Ridge has been devastating on defense this season, allowing only 21 points while racking up 387 on the offensive side. The Farmers will have to be at the top of their game to hold down Heritage quarterback, Mitch Griebel, who has passed for 1,222 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 470 yards. Receiver Shane Opitz has been the main target, catching 31 passes for 588 yards and 16 touchdowns. Kyle Mews and Austin Livingston have been the top ground gainers for Wheat Ridge, while Livingston also leads the team in pass receiving. The defending champion Farmers do not throw a lot, but quarterback Charlie Land has been successful on 70 percent of his attempts.
Class 3A: Pueblo County at Falcon, Friday.
The Southern League title is up for grabs. Falcon’s Aaron Blevins has been super this season, rushing for 1,557 yards and scoring 21 touchdowns. No doubt he will draw a lot of attention from the Hornets defenders, but Pueblo County also has to keep an eye on quarterback Joey Caron, who has passed for 1,140 yards and 14 TDs. On the other side, Falcon will have to contend with a pair of solid running backs, Brett Avila and Mike Hasenak, who have rushed for 778 and 528 yards, respectively.
Class 2A: Holy Family at Faith Christian, Friday.
Faith Christian, unbeaten at 8-0, is stingy when it comes to defense, as the Eagles have registered six shutouts and have surrendered only three touchdowns all year. Offensivley, they have scored more than 40 points on all but one opponent. Holy Family lost to Steamboat Springs to open the season, but the Tigers have been unstoppable since.Josh Sommers has paced Holy Family at quarterback, passing for 775 yards. The Tigers like to keep the ball on the ground, and three backs have accumulated more than 500 yards each. Leading the way is Duncan Yost (593), Jonathan Gerry (580) and Nick Welder (528).
Class A: Burlington at Limon, Friday.
This one is for the title in the South Central League between the Eastern Plains powers. Both teams are 7-1 overall, each losing to defending state champion Akron in nonleague encounters. Limon has been the more balanced offensively. Badgers quarterback Matt Brown has thrown for 1,006 yards while rushing for an additional 596. Jerome King has chipped in with 596 yards on the ground. Burlington likes to run the ball with Colin Eberhart the leader in the category with 1,029 yards and 13 touchdowns. Both teams are solid defensively. Michael Slattery leads Burlington in tackles with 61, while Shad Whitmore has 59. Brown is tied in tackles for the Badgers with Trent Dohe, each with 49.
Class A 8-Man: Simla at Miami-Yoder, Saturday.
The cross-divisional playoffs (see the complete schedule below) will be played Friday and Saturday in the classification, with the winners advancing to the state playoffs. This one between Simla (6-2) at Miami-Yoder (7-1) appears to be the most attractive matchup of the weekend. Simla has struggled the past two weeks, losing to Cheyenne Wells and Genoa-Hugo, so the Cubs are hoping to repeat their early season success behind running back Mike Mullin and quarterback Chance Mitchell. Miami-Yoder, which lost to Elbert in its regular-season finale last week, counters with a high-powered offense led by Shane Reed (1,689 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns) and Nick Bonser (754, 14).
Class A 6-Man: Weldon Valley at Prairie, Friday.
Only two teams from each of the four 6-man leagues advance to state, so this is a do-or-die weekend for four teams, tied for second in their respective divisions. Weldon Valley (4-3) has been vastly improved during the past month, as the Warriors have won three of their four games. Also, the winner of South Baca and Edison advances in the South League, while the loser is done for the season.
Class A 8-Man Cross-Divisional Playoffs
Vail Christian (Central Division No. 4) at Merino (Plains Division No. 1), 6 p.m. Friday
Silver State (Central No. 3) at Dayspring Christian (Plains No. 2), 1 p.m. Saturday
Longmont Christian (Plains No. 4) at Justice (Central No. 1), 1 p.m. Saturday
Caliche (Plains No. 3) at Rocky Mountain Lutheran (Central No. 2), 1 p.m. Saturday at Maranatha Christian
Colorado Deaf and Blind (Black Forest No. 4) at Cheyenne Wells (I-70 No. 1), 4 p.m. Friday
Kiowa (Black Forest No. 3) at Genoa-Hugo (I-70 No. 2), 7 p.m. Friday
Stratton (I-70 No. 4) at Elbert (Black Forest No. 1), 7 p.m. Friday
Simla (I-70 No. 3) at Miami-Yoder (Black Forest No. 2), 1 p.m. Saturday
Plateau Valley (Western No. 4) at Antonito (Mountain No. 1), 1 p.m. Saturday
Dove Creek (Western No. 3) at Sanford (Mountain No. 2), 1 p.m. Saturday
Sangre de Cristo (Mountain No. 4) at Norwood (Western No. 1), 1 p.m. Saturday
La Veta (Mountain No. 3) at Nucla (Western No. 2), 1 p.m. Saturday
Hanover (Southern No. 4) at Springfield (Arkansas Valley No. 1), 1 p.m. Saturday
Hoehne (Southern No. 3) at Granada (Arkansas Valley No. 2), TBA
Holly (Arkansas Valley No. 4) at Fowler (Southern No. 1), 1 p.m. Saturday
Walsh (Arkansas Valley No. 3) at Swink (Southern No. 2), 1 p.m. Saturday
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