No. 10 Ralston Valley football corrals victory against rival Arvada West

ARVADA — Ralston Valley senior Devin McNearney put the finishing touches on what was likely the final game of the season at the North Area Athletic Complex for the Mustangs.

McNearney intercepted a pass from Arvada West junior Xavier Nail on the opening drive of the second half Thursday night. The two-way player then finished off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter.

Arvada West junior Cade Russel (28) fights for yards during the Wildcats' lone scoring drive Thursday against Ralston Valley. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“That was pretty sweet. He just lobbed it up,” McNearney said of his first interception of his varsity career. “Then the touchdown, that was my big boys up front blocking for me. I love every single one of them. They always get it done. I really appreciate them.”

Ralston Valley — No. 10 in the Class 5A football rankings — cruised to a 35-7 victory over rival Arvada West (1-5, 0-5 in 5A Jeffco League).

Senior Tyler Roybal got the Mustangs (4-2, 3-1) started with a 1-yard touchdown run to close out the opening drive of the game. However, A-West answered with a nice drive where they had Nail run ‘Wildcat’ for most of the drive. Junior Cade Russel finished the drive with a 1-yard run.

It was all tied up 7-7 after the first quarter, but it was all Ralston Valley for the final three quarters.

“We kind of expected Arvada West to pull something out of the bag for us specifically,” Ralston Valley senior defensive back Cole Kumpf said of A-West running ‘Wildcat’ to start the game. “We had confidence that we were going to stop it after a little bit.”

After a 23-yard touchdown pass from Ralston Valley junior quarterback Zach Friedman to senior Rocco Tate and McNearney’s first touchdown run of the game gave the Mustangs a 21-7 lead.

Kumpf had a huge defensive play intercepting A-West sophomore quarterback Ethan Cook in the final minutes before halftime and returning it for a touchdown pushing the lead to 28-7 at halftime.

“I was just in a good spot and I got lucky with the tip,” Kumpf said of the pick-6. “I saw it. Got it in my hands and scored.”

Ralston Valley senior Cole Kumpf (11) returns an interception for a touchdown to give the Mustangs a 28-7 lead going into halftime Thursday night. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

McNearney’s second touchdown with 6:27 left in the third quarter was the only score of the second half.

“It seems like we haven’t put our best foot forward all year,” Kumpf said. “This was the game we wanted to do it finally.”

It’s been a wild ride for Ralston Valley. Trying to find games after several scheduled opponents had to cancel games against the Mustangs due to COVID issues has been an ongoing issue for Ralston Valley. That included Ralston Valley not playing No. 5 Columbine last week when the Rebels had to be quarantined.

The Mustangs picked up No. 2 Valor Christian for a non-league game to replace Columbine last week. After giving the Eagles a solid test the first half, Valor pulled away in the second half on the way to a 45-7 win.

“We were just trying to make a better comeback from last week,” Ralston Valley coach Matt Loyd said referring to the loss against Valor.

A-West got off to a good start with a non-league victory over ThunderRidge to kickoff the season. However, the Wildcats are on a 5-game losing streak. That includes close losses to Mullen and Lakewood in conference play.

Ralston Valley has an outside shot on making the 8-team 5A state field. The Mustangs sat at No. 11 in the CHSAA seeding index before the start of Week 6 games. Ralston Valley would need a lot of things to fall in its favor to make the postseason with a 4-2 record.

“A shortened season wasn’t what I wanted for any one of our seniors,” Loyd said. “(McNearney) had a really good game tonight. He is fun to watch.”

The Mustangs’ two losses were against undefeated and Top-5 ranked teams — Valor and Pomona. Ralston Valley is planning on having playing a Week 7 non-playoff game next week if it doesn’t make the state tournament.

A-West is planning on having its Week 7 non-playoff game against Standley Lake next week. That game will likely be played Thursday, Nov. 19, at NAAC.

Ralston Valley senior Rocco Tate, far right, tries to break free from an Arvada West defender during the first quarter Thursday night at the North Area Athletic Complex. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)