ARVADA — It wasn’t nearly the cleanest of performances Thursday night at the North Area Athletic Complex, but it was good enough to keep Ralston Valley undefeated on the season.
The Mustangs, No. 4 in this week’s CHSAANow.com Class 5A football rankings, led from start to finish against 5A Jeffco opponent Columbine to take a 38-14 victory.
“It was fun. Columbine is just like us,” Ralston Valley senior Andrew Wingard said of the style of play. “They want to run it down your throat.”
Ralston Valley (4-0, 2-0 in league) beat the Rebels (1-3, 1-1) at their own game with a rushing attack that mirrors those Columbine coach Andy Lowry has produced year-after-year. The Mustangs rushed for more than 300 yards on the night. Wingard led the way with 21 carries for 177 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
Wingard had a little added pressure on the night with University of Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre in attendance. MacIntyre made the trip down Highway 93 from Boulder to get a close-up look of Wingard.
“It’s weird having a (college) coach watch me. I try to tune it out of my mind. Obviously, I knew he was there,” Wingard said. “I tried to play a little more defense because he is looking at me at DB (defensive back), but I just wanted to get that win for my team.”
Wingard didn’t disappoint. He helped give Ralston Valley a 17-0 lead at halftime with touchdown runs of one and eight yards. The two-way player broke off his longest run of the night on a 35-yard touchdown run with 3:13 left in the third quarter to make the score 24-6.
The Mustangs’ stout defense held Columbine to just 54 yards of total offense in the first half. The Rebels got their running game going behind senior Austin Norton and sophomore Mikey Griebel in the second half.
Columbine had its best drive on the night to open the second half with a 12-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that chewed up half of the third quarter. Norton, who finished with 15 carries for 76 yards to go along with two catches for 20 yards, capped off the scoring drive with a 7-yard touchdown run.
Still, Ralston Valley answered quickly, scoring touchdowns on it next three drives to take a commanding 38-6 lead. After Wingard’s third touchdown of the night, senior Dalton Pribble scored on a four-yard run. That was followed by a two-yard touchdown by senior Anthony Falbo.
“It was good to play Columbine,” said Ralston Valley coach Matt Loyd, who coached against Lowry when Loyd coached at Golden High School. Thursday was the first meeting on the football field between Columbine and Ralston Valley. “A lot of tradition and a lot of good teams.”
While the Mustangs’ record remained unblemished, it was clear Loyd had some issues with a number of mistakes his team had in the victory.
“I’m not happy. Way too sloppy. I’m not happy at all,” Loyd said as his players did 100-yard sprints after the game. “From the coaches to the players, we have to do better than that.”
Ralston Valley returns to the NAAC next Thursday night to face another Jeffco League foe in Chatfield (2-2, 1-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The Chargers were on the short end of a 42-39 score Thursday night at Jeffco Stadium against Bear Creek.
“We didn’t have the best week of practice,” Wingard admitted. “We can’t do that. Week-in and week-out we have to prepare a lot harder because this is the SEC of Colorado.”
Columbine hosts Mullen (1-2, 0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, at Jeffco Stadium.