No. 9 Dakota Ridge football runs past Monarch in 4A showdown

LAKEWOOD — Dakota Ridge junior Sean McNamara is doing a pretty good job of filling some big shoes.

The graduation of star running back Jered Garcia — 1,388 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns in 2018 — left a big hole to fill in the Eagles’ offense. However, McNamara has filled in nicely.

Dakota Ridge junior Sean McNamara (34) tries to keep his balance during a run Thursday night at Jeffco Stadium. McNamara rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles' 24-7 victory. More photos. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“He isn’t quite as flashy, but he runs hard,” Dakota Ridge coach Ron Woitalewicz said of the Eagles’ new featured running back. “I can’t say enough about Sean. Physically, he just ran the ball hard. That’s what I love about him.”

McNamara carried the ball 27 times for 169 yards and three touchdowns Thursday night at Jeffco Stadium. The ground game of the Eagles — No. 9 in the CHSAANow.com Class 4A football rankings this week — pushed Dakota Ridge to a 24-7 victory over Monarch.

“That was always the goal,” McNamara said of filling the shoes of Garcia. “I’m going to try to do it all season.”

McNamara was limited to just 29 yards on 15 carries last week in a 34-16 victory over Rampart, but he sure got on track against the Coyotes (0-1 record). The junior gave Dakota Ridge a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run.

“The offensive line blocked great,” McNamara said. “The game-plan was to run against them. We did that last year. It was just working.”

He found the end zone twice in the second half on a pair of short touchdowns runs as Dakota Ridge pulled away by shutting out Monarch 17-0 after halftime.

Monarch junior Ryan Shaughnessy (22) is congratulated by senior AJ Tennessen after a 6-yard touchdown run by the junior tailback Thursday at Jeffco Stadium. More photos. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We made some good adjustments,” Woitalewicz said of the Eagles outscoring the Coyotes 17-0 in the second half. “I’ve got a real confident group of kids right now that are playing really good. That’s a really great program (Monarch). You don’t win two state titles not being a really great program.”

Monarch tied things up 7-7 on a 6-yard touchdown run by junior Ryan Shaughnessy in the second quarter. The Coyotes couldn’t get much going offensively after halftime, crossing midfield just once in the second half.

“We came out really strong in that second half,” Dakota Ridge junior defensive back Max Hart said. “Props to our defense line. They were dirty tonight.”

Hart actually had the biggest play defensively in the second half. He intercepted Monarch junior quarterback Kyle Gordon on the opening possession of the third quarter. It appeared Hart scored after picking off the pass on Monarch’s 35-yard line, but it was ruled he stepped out at the 10-yard line.

Dakota Ridge had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Hart, but it was the start of 17 unanswered points by the Eagles.

“I saw it coming and bit on it,” Hart said of his interception. “I thought I got in (end zone). It was a big possession switch and nice to get the field goal too.”

Dakota Ridge senior Nick Parrish (28) returns a punt as Monarch junior Ryan Shaughnessy (22) lines up to make a tackle. More photos. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Dakota Ridge junior quarterback Ben Gultig was stellar in his first varsity start last week against Rampart. The junior was 11-for-19 passing for 169 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Mason Galbreath was Gultig’s favorite target, catching four passes for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Gultig finished 11-for-18 passing for 109 yards through the air against Monarch. It was clear Dakota Ridge wanted to focus on controlling the ball on the ground against the Coyotes.

“We really challenge our offense this week to run the football better because that sets up everything for us offensively,” Woitalewicz said.

Dakota Ridge (2-0) now has its bye week and won’t be back on the field until it faces Vista Ridge on Sept. 20 back at Jeffco Stadium.

“Honestly, momentum means a lot, but resting is good too,” Hart said. “We’ll be good.”

Monarch sophomore Keiran Singh (9) looks for running room during Thursday's game against No. 9 Dakota Ridge at Jeffco Stadium. More photos. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)