Dakota Ridge football remains in playoff hunt with win over Golden

LAKEWOOD — Dakota Ridge’s football team will be the biggest fans of rival Chatfield on Friday night at Jeffco Stadium.

“It’s going to be awful, but we are hoping for the best right now,” Dakota Ridge senior Josh Roybal said of rooting for Chatfield to defeat Bear Creek in the Class 4A Jeffco League finale.

Dakota Ridge (6-4, 4-1) took care of its business with a 34-17 victory over Golden on Thursday night at Trailblazer Stadium. The win gave the Eagles at least a share of the conference title, but the issue now is who will get the automatic bid for the 16-team 4A state tournament.

Dakota Ridge senior Justin Sanchez (8) is able to make a catch despite the effort of Golden junior Dylan Mathias. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

The Eagles would grab the automatic bid as the 4A Jeffco League champion if Chatfield defeats Bear Creek on Friday night at Jeffco Stadium. Dakota Ridge and rival Chatfield would finish tied for the league title, but the Eagles’ 31-21 head-to-head victory over the Chargers on Oct. 18 gives Dakota Ridge the tiebreaker and conference title.

“I’ll go down and help coach,” Dakota Ridge coach Ron Woitalewicz said joking about what he is willing to do to help rival Chatfield out Friday night. “I have a lot of respect for Bret (Chatfield coach Bret McGatlin). I just hope we maybe did enough to move up.”

Dakota Ridge sat No. 16 in the RPI rankings before the final regular-season games started Thursday night. It looks like Bear Creek is the only possible conference champ receiving an automatic bid from outside the top-16 that would bump out a top-16 RPI team.

If Bear Creek defeats Chatfield, the Bears would tie Dakota Ridge for the conference title and actually could bump the Eagles out of the No. 16 spot in the RPI. Bear Creek was No. 24 in the RPI while Chatfield is pretty safe on making the playoffs sitting at No. 12 in RPI heading into tomorrow night’s big conference game.

Golden senior Jack Walters (8) celebrates his pick-6 with teammate Travis Poole. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“If we would have beat Bear Creek we wouldn’t have had this issue, but it happened,” Dakota Ridge senior Jered Garcia said referring to the 24-21 loss to the Bears on Oct. 4 that would allow Bear Creek to take the head-to-head tiebreaker for the Eagles. “We are dependent now on Chatfield. Hopefully they can get the job done and you’ll see us in the playoffs.”

Golden (5-5, 1-4) put an early damper on the playoff scenario for Dakota Ridge. The Demons jumped out to an early 14-0 lead with an 11-play, 65-yard opening scoring drive capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback David O’Connell.

On the Eagles’ first offensive snap, Dakota Ridge quarterback Ben Biffinger was intercepted by senior Jack Walters who returned it 42 yards for another Demons’ touchdown.

“This year we have battled every single game and battled to the end,” Golden coach Jared Yannacito said. “We weren’t going to change that this week.”

Dakota Ridge senior Ryan Kissinger (25) is able to defend a pass intended for Golden senior Jack Walters. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

However, Dakota Ridge regrouped and ended up outscoring the Demons 34-3 the rest of the way. The Eagles had five rushing touchdown and forced five Golden turnovers to rally for the victory.

“I was never really nervous. We’ve been down before,” Garcia said. “I knew we would battle back. We’ve done it multiple times this season. I trust all of my boys (offensive line) up front. I knew we would do it.”

Garcia was the workhorse for the Eagles’ offense with 29 carries for 226 yards and two touchdowns. His 48-yard run midway in the fourth quarter eventually set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Biffinger that put the Eagles up 27-17.

“I was really proud of our guys and how we ran the ball,” Woitalewicz said. “Jered Garcia is a phenomenal kid. For our offensive line to control the ball the way that they did was huge for us.”

Dakota Ridge senior Jered Garcia had 29 carries for 226 yards and a pair of touchdown in the Eagles' 34-17 victory over Golden on Thursday night at Trailblazer Stadium. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)