No. 1 Dakota Ridge football turns it on in the 2nd half against Golden

LAKEWOOD — Dakota Ridge senior Max Hart was able to get back into an old position on the football field Saturday afternoon at Jeffco Stadium.

“I just don’t like being off the field too much,” Hart said. “I love playing offense and defense.”

The wide receiver hadn’t played cornerback this season, but was pressed into the defensive backfield against Golden. Hart came up big for the lone touchdown in the first half with a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown during Dakota Ridge’s eventual 45-3 victory over Golden.

Dakota Ridge senior Spencer Hardy (37) closes in on Golden quarterback Joey Mancuso during the first half Saturday at Jeffco Stadium. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“There was huge pressure up front and that helps out big time,” Hart said. “It makes our job easy when there is pressure up front. The ball was right in my hands and I was gone.”

The pick-6 by Hart was one of the few things the Eagles — No. 1 in the Class 4A football rankings — could celebrate in the first half. Dakota Ridge held just a 11-3 lead over Golden (1-4, 1-3 in 4A Jeffco) at halftime.

“We haven’t been challenged and I think our kids are complacent. They expect to show up and turn the switch on and off,” Dakota Ridge coach Ron Woitalewicz said. “We just can’t be complacent. It’s going to get tougher from here on out.”

Dakota Ridge (5-0, 4-0) has outscored its opponents 257-32 through the first five weeks. However, the Eagles know that a first-half effort like Saturday’s could spell doom down the road.

“We started the game slow. We can’t do that against big teams,” Hart said. “They will put 30 points on us in a blink of an eye.”

Dakota Ridge did get things going offensively in the second half after turning the ball over three times before halftime. The Eagles took advantage of short fields on three straight possessions to start the second half.

Quarterback Ben Gultig connected with Hart for a 29-yard touchdown in the first minute of the third quarter. Sophomore Noah Triplett had his first of two touchdown runs midway through the third quarter and Gultig hit senior Luke Loehding for a 2-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the third quarter to push the Eagles’ lead to 31-3.

Golden senior Hayden English (25) eyes a loose ball after Dakota Ridge miss played a kickoff in the first quarter Saturday at Jeffco Stadium. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We just came out kind of flat,” Dakota Ridge senior linebacker Steve Reyes said. “I knew our defense had to do something because it was a defensive game. We also knew the offense would get going in the second half.”

The Eagles eventually scored 34 unanswered points and shut out Golden in the second half.

“When we play aggressive, fly around and tackle we are pretty good,” Woitalewicz said of the Eagles’ defense.

The Demons shocked the Eagles last year with a 14-0 victory in the regular-season finale for both teams. Golden could only muster up a 29-yard field goal by sophomore Chase Brion offensively against Dakota Ridge.

Golden hosts Bear Creek (2-3, 2-2) at the North Area Athletic Complex next Friday night.

Dakota Ridge has one final hurdle to complete its undefeated regular season. The Eagles face rival Chatfield at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at Trailblazer Stadium. The Chargers (3-2, 3-1) defeated Standley Lake 17-7 on Saturday afternoon at NAAC.

“We just have to practice every practice like it’s your last. Play every game like it’s your last,” Hart said. “We have really been pounding and focusing on that this year.”

Dakota Ridge's defense was dominate against Golden on Saturday afternoon at Jeffco Stadium. The Eagles sacked Golden quarterback Joey Mancuso a number of times. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)