ARVADA — Eaglecrest took care of business late Friday afternoon at the North Area Athletic Complex.
In the lone top-10 match-up in the CHSAANow.com Class 5A football poll, No. 2 Eaglecrest defeated No. 10 Arvada West 35-7 at the NAAC in Arvada. The win wrapped up the second straight undefeated regular season for Eaglecrest (10-0, 5-0 in league) and the Mt. Wilson League championship.
“It’s great for this team and program,” Eaglecrest senior quarterback Jalen Mergerson said. “Back-to-back (undefeated regular season) has never been done in Eaglecrest football history. That’s what we talked about doing at the beginning of the year.”
The Raptors never trailed, taking a 35-0 lead in the third quarter before the Wildcats (7-3, 3-2) got on the scoreboard with a short touchdown run by Anthony Gallardo to prevent the shutout.
Mergerson had touchdown passes of 53 and 67 yards. Both long touchdown strikes were to senior Theryne Sandoval-Jimenez. The Raptors did turn the ball over twice, something Eaglecrest had issues with last week in a last-second win over Ralston Valley.
“I feel like we lost focus a little bit,” Mergerson said about what happened after the Raptors scored on their first two possessions. “We started turning over the ball. We can have that. Every possession counts.”
Eaglecrest senior Victor Garnes had a typical game for one of the leading playmakers in the state. Garnes had a 7-yard touchdown run right before halftime to give Eaglecrest a 21-0 lead at halftime. He came up big early in the third quarter with an interception he returned 65 yards for a touchdown.
“We have a lot of work to do, but I’m just glad we are here and celebrating another undefeated (regular season),” Garnes said. “It’s back to work on Monday, but we are going to enjoy this for the next 24 hours.”
If A-West stays in the top-16 in the RPI standings it would be the first playoff appearance in the state tournament for the Wildcats since 2010.
“We had to buy into the process. It’s been a longtime coming from 1-9 and 6-4,” A-West junior and three-year starting quarterback Johnny Krutsch said as the Wildcats wait to find out their playoff fate. “(Eaglecrest) is No. 2 in the state. We just have to learn from our mistakes and pray we get in.”
There is a high probability of three teams from the Mt. Wilson League will be seeded in the Class 5A state football tournament bracket, scheduled to be released Sunday, Nov. 5, on CHSAANow.com.
Ralston Valley (6-4, 4-1 in league) was No. 11 in the RPI standings before games Friday night. The Mustangs finished off their regular season with a victory over Rocky Mountain on Thursday night at NAAC. Ralston Valley nearly defeated Eaglecrest last week and edged A-West with a last-second touchdown in its annual showdown to finish runner-up to Eaglecrest in one of the tougher 5A conferences.
“We definitely had to battle through adversity these past two games,” Mergerson said of victories against Ralston Valley and A-West to close out the regular season. “We came out ready to go at 4 pm against a tough Arvada West team.”
All three of A-West’s losses — Lakewood, Ralston Valley and Eaglecrest — came against teams that are likely headed to the postseason.
“This team have a lot of fight in them. They have changed the culture a lot in four years. We have a long way to go, but we are on the right track,” A-West coach Brad Pyatt said. “I’m proud of my kids of what they have done with seven wins. It’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully we get rewarded for it next week and get to compete again.”