COLORADO SPRINGS — Pueblo South coach Ryan Goddard likes to make sure his team earns everything that they get. The privilege of practicing on Thanksgiving is on that list.
So after the Colts handled Vista Ridge 35-14 in the Class 4A quarterfinals on Saturday, he wanted to make sure that his boys knew that all the hard work they had put in last offseason and this year had paid off.
"Welcome to the state semifinals," he said to his players. That statement was received with hoots and hollers that are well-fit for a conglomerate of teenagers.
Pueblo South is still alive and, as a result, will practice Thanksgiving day.
"It's just about earning things and we talked to our kids all summer about earning things," Goddard said. "We live in this world of entitlement and it's a frustrating world to live in at times. (It's about) just dialing in on things and understanding that this is a privilege."
The Colts (11-1 overall) earned the right to play in the quarterfinals thanks to a win over Montrose last week. They traveled to Vista Ridge in a frigid, but cloud-free day looking to build on the success that they experienced in the regular season.
Vista Ridge (7-5) is not a team without athletes and might be the best team in terms of personnel to match up with the 4A Foothills League champions.
But the Wolves, like 10 other teams this year, found out the hard way that the Colts' playmakers might just be championship worthy.
South jumped on the board thanks to a punt return for a touchdown from senior receiver Thomas Pannunzio.
"It was something that we like to use to have some firm momentum throughout the game," Pannunzio said. "It was something we needed to get our team motivated to come out and get a win."
Somehow everything fell in sync for the Colts from there on out. Zach Cozzolino found standout receiver Marcell Barbee for three touchdown passes before halftime.
Barbee finished his day with six catches for 120 yards and three scores. It was a performance that everyone will remember in a week when the Colts are just one of four 4A teams remaining.
"We were one of eight teams coming into this game," Barbee said. "Just being one of those teams is an honor. We worked our tails off to come out here and execute the way that we do. We chase excellence every day in practice."
The punt return for a touchdown was the first of many things that went wrong for the Wolves. Twice they got the ball inside of the Pueblo South five-yard line and failed to come away with points. Three lost fumbles certainly played a key part not only in their falling behind, but inability to claw their way back.
"You can't do that," Vista Ridge coach Jeremi Calip said. "Look at the score in the second half. (We win) 14-7. It's one of those things when you play good ball clubs, you cannot have mistakes like that."
The lone touchdown for the Colts came on their first offensive play of the half when Steve Brock broke free for a 66-yard scamper.
Junior quarterback Rowan Neal finally got Vista Ridge into the end zone on a zone read keeper. The Wolves added another touchdown run before time ticked away, but the game was well in South's hands by that point.
The Colts will return to Dutch Clark Stadium on Saturday and play No. 15 Broomfield who came away with yet another upset win. This time, undefeated Loveland was the victim. Like they have all year, the Colts will get right to work on Monday as they look to keep their title hopes alive.
"Honestly, I haven't seen a single snap from Broomfield," Goddard said. "That's a good program. They were in the state title game last year. They're hungry."