ARVADA — There was no letdown for Arvada West heading into what will likely be the program’s biggest football game in years next Friday at the North Area Athletic Complex.
A-West held on to a 45-41 victory Saturday afternoon at NAAC against Rangeview in both teams’ Class 5A Mt. Wilson League opener. Next up for the Wildcats (5-1, 1-0 league), cross-town rival Ralston Valley (3-3, 1-0).
“We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us. The boys are ready to get their rival up west,” A-West coach Brad Pyatt said of facing the Mustangs next Friday night. “This year I think we’ll have our hands full, but we have a team that can compete against them.”
The stakes will be raised when A-West faces its area-rival. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 at NAAC. The Mustangs have a 6-0 record against the Wildcats since Ralston Valley moved up to the 5A classification in 2010.
A-West and Ralston Valley are the only 5A Jeffco programs in the same 5A conference during the current two-year waterfall format. The winner would remain undefeated in the league play.
“We are just trying to get better each week and rolling into RV at 5-1 (record) isn’t bad,” A-West senior Chase Dixon said.
Dixon was a big reason the Wildcats extended their winning streak to four and scored 40-plus points for the fourth straight game. The senior receiver had seven catches for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Dixon has 688 yards receiving through six games.
Dixon’s first touchdown catch Saturday came on a fourth-and-10 from Rangeview’s 20-yard line. His catch on a corner-fade route from A-West sophomore quarterback Johnny Krutsch gave the Wildcats a 14-6 lead midway through the first quarter.
“(Dixon) and Johnny (Krutsch), you can just see it, they have a good thing going,” Pyatt said. “I feel confident going to Chase anytime.”
A-West scored 28 unanswered points after Rangeview took an early 6-0 lead on a 39-yard touchdown run by senior tailback A.J. Thomas on the Raiders’ opening drive.
A huge momentum grab for the Wildcats in the first half was an interception returned 80 yards for a touchdown by sophomore Tony Cass, who also had an 11-yard touchdown run in the first half.
“When I caught it was just thinking about sprinting and no let anyone tackle me,” Cass said. “It felt great.”
A-West scored on its opening drive in the second half. Krutsch, who finished 19-for-34 passing for 289 yards and two touchdowns, hit Dixon for a 59-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats up 38-12.
Rangeview battled back with a pair of touchdown runs by Thomas, who finished with 26 carries for 202 yards and four touchdowns. The Raiders actually cut the Wildcats’ lead to just four points in the final minute with a touchdown pass from junior Jaelin Odegard to junior Josh Hollins.
“I knew going in that Rangeview was a tough team. Even when we were up I knew they weren’t going to give up,” Pyatt said. “I didn’t expect them to come back that quickly on us, but I’m proud of my team for continuing to fight and close it out. Right now we are learning how to win.”
A-West recovered an onside kick in the final minute and were able to take a few knees to run out the clock.
Senior Joey Perez had a workman-like game carrying the ball 27 times for 70 yards and two touchdowns for the Wildcats. Perez’s final touchdown came on a 1-yard score on fourth down with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter.
“Joey is our workhorse,” Dixon said. “If you give him the ball he is going to run hard. Our line blocked hard today too.”
Eaglecrest (6-0, 1-0), No. 3 in the latest CHSAANow.com 5A football poll, looks like the favorite in the Mt. Wilson League. The Raptors defeated Rocky Mountain 42-7 in Fort Collins on Friday night to open their league schedule.
Eaglecrest squares off against Ralston Valley and A-West in Week 9 and 10, respectively, to close out its regular season. Rangeview (2-4, 0-1) gets its shot next week against the Raptors at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at Legacy Stadium in Aurora.