Rams face similar squad in Monte Vista
Judging from the coaches, overconfidence won’t be a problem on either sideline when Roaring Fork travels to Monte Vista Saturday for the first round of the Class 2A state football playoffs.
“On paper, this is a 10-7 game,” said Roaring Fork head coach Tory Jensen.
“I think both ballclubs are solid, and it will probably come down to the team that makes the least mistakes,” countered Monte Vista head coach Jim McAuliffe. “I think the teams are very evenly matched.”
Not much in the way of bulletin board material there, and it’s likely because both coaches are quietly confident in their teams. Both also know, however, anything short of a perfect game, and the season may be over.
Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday at Monte Vista High School.
Monte Vista (8-1) enters the game as the No. 2 seed out of the Intermountain Conference. The Pirates are ranked seventh in the Rocky Mountain News Class 2A poll and ninth in the Denver Post poll.
Roaring Fork (7-2) is the No. 2 seed out of the Western Slope Conference and ranked 10th in the Rocky Mountain News poll.
And, like Jensen says, the teams are tight on paper. Both were eliminated in the quarterfinals last season and the statistics this year are also similar.
Offensively for the Pirates, senior Ben Carlucci is in his third year starting at quarterback. He has amassed 879 yards passing, with five touchdowns and just two interceptions. He is also a threat on the ground, with 390 yards.
“(The Pirates) come out and run the dive and then throw the ball when you’re not expecting it,” Jensen said. “They are very good at what they do, and they execute very well.”
McAuliffe said Carlucci is a little nicked up from the season finale against Centauri. But regardless of who is taking snaps, Monte Vista has a solid trio of receivers in Micah Trujillo (338 yards), Jon Whitmer (298) and John Schmidt (189).
Carlucci’s counterpart, Evan Carmichael, can boast similar numbers to the Pirate passer.
The Rams’ senior quarterback, after sitting out the first two games of the season, has 677 yards passing, with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He too, can run, averaging over 13 yards per carry with 287 on the season.
Senior receiver Max Green is the favorite target, with 308 yards this season, and Dan Markoya has 190 yards.
When the ball stays on the ground, James Leonard has been the workhorse for the Rams this season, although the carries have been spread around more in recent weeks than earlier in the year.
Leonard has 804 yards rushing on 87 carries. Monte Vista’s featured back, Glen Marquez has 967 yards on 198 carries.
Leonard could be called upon to carry the team as he did in early season if the Pirates are able to shut down the Rams’ passing game. Monte Vista has allowed over 20 points only once this season and Jensen sees the defensive backfield as a strength.
“Their coverage people are very good and very fast,” said Jensen, who has been watching film on the Pirates this week. “I haven’t seen anyone who’s been able to pass on them so far.”
Similarly, the Roaring Fork defense has allowed over 20 points just twice this season. Once against No. 1-ranked Class 3A Rifle and once to Aspen – with two touchdowns coming in a blowout with the Rams’ second string on the field.
“It’s going to be a team shot,” Jensen said. “The beauty of what we do offensively and defensively is that any one player could be that player” who breaks the game open.
The winner of Saturday’s contest faces the winner of Holy Family (9-0) and Weld Central (8-1).
In other 2A playoff action for Western Slope teams, conference champion Eagle Valley (9-0) hosts Wray (5-4), and Cedaredge (7-2), the team the Rams beat in the final regular-season game to clinch the No. 2 seed, travels to defending state champion Burlington (7-2). Both games are at 1 p.m. Saturday.
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