ThunderRidge’s early game of keep-away set the tone for the Grizzlies’ 36-18 victory over Ralston Valley on Friday night at the North Area Athletic Complex.
In the football matchup between the No. 2 and No. 3 Class 5A teams in this week’s CHSAANow.com football poll, ThunderRidge ran 25 offensive plays to Ralston Valley’s three in the first quarter.
“We just came out a little bit flat and we weren’t executing,” Ralston Valley senior quarterback Jacob Knipp said. “ThunderRidge had a good scheme. They ran the ball, took a lot of time off the clock and we couldn’t get a roll going.”
The Grizzlies moved the ball systematically most of the night on the ground with the power running of Matt Stanley. The tailback had 31 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown.
ThunderRidge quarterback Brody Westmoreland had a strong night on the ground with 14 carries for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The senior’s 4-yard diving effort into the end zone with 3:50 left in the fourth quarter gave the Grizzlies their biggest lead of the night at 36-12.
Westmoreland was effective through the air, too, going 7-for-10 for 85 yards and a pair of touchdown passes.
“I’m more satisfied with how well we played as a team,” Westmoreland said when asked if the two passing or two rushing touchdowns were more rewarding. “Our defense stepped up big time to shut Ralston Valley down and our offense came together.”
ThunderRidge (2-0) will host Grandview (2-0) next Friday night in an attempt to keep its unblemished record intact.
“I still think we have stuff to work on, but we are getting there,” Westmoreland said.
Ralston Valley (2-1) suffered its only regular season loss to ThunderRidge last season before advancing to the 5A semifinals. The Mustangs went on a nine-game winning streak last year after the setback to the Grizzlies.
“You’ve got to take the positives along with the negatives,” said Knipp, who finished 13-for-19 passing for 179 yards and two touchdowns. “This whole game will make us better.”
The Mustangs’ offensive managed a pair of big plays in the fourth quarter while playing catch-up. Knipp connected with senior Kevin Meadows for touchdowns of 53 and 51 yards in the final quarter. Junior running back Andrew Wingard scored the Mustangs third touchdown while carrying the ball 16 times for 90 yards.
“I just try to play with as much heart as I could. We gave it all we had,” Meadows said. “We’ve got some things we’ve got to work on.”
Ralston Valley next chance to improve will come on the Western Slope when it faces Grand Junction (3-0) at 7 p.m. next Saturday at Stocker Stadium.