Ticket to title game at stake | PostIndependent.com

Ticket to title game at stake

G. Sean Kelly
GSPI Sports Editor

There aren’t many Class 2A football teams still spending the evening hours on the gridiron working out game situations and learning new plays.

Actually, there are four. After Saturday, all but a pair of schools will pinning their state title hopes on basketball or wrestling instead of football.

For Roaring Fork High School, the winter sports season can wait.

The Rams play Denver Christian Saturday at 1 p.m. at Roaring Fork High School with hopes of extending their season one more week and qualifying for their first state championship football game since 1985.

The cream has certainly risen to the top in the 2A playoffs. There are only two losses among the four teams remaining. Roaring Fork and Eaton are undefeated in 11 games and Denver Christian and Faith Christian each have one loss.

Obviously, with only the Class 2A’s elite teams remaining, the Rams will likely need a clean game to stay with Denver Christian or any of the remaining teams. And Roaring Fork hasn’t played mistake-free ball, at least on the offensive side, this postseason.

Unlike the regular season, Roaring Fork’s offense was dormant for the better part of three quarters in each of its two previous playoff games, battling turnovers and penalties.

In the playoff opener against La Junta, the Rams broke open a 7-3 contest late in the third quarter before going on to win 27-3. Last week at Estes Park, Roaring Fork overcame a pair of first-half fumbles ” which the Bobcats turned into touchdowns ” and a late interception to score 14 fourth-quarter points and win 21-17.

It won’t be easy to overcome those errors against a stout Denver Christian defense. The Crusaders haven’t given up more than nine points in a game and, other than a 9-7 loss to Faith Christian, have an average winning margin of 29.7 points this season.

“They’re big, fast, well-disciplined ” about like every other team at this stage,” Roaring Fork head coach Tory Jensen said.

“We’ve got to create turnovers on defense and, on offense, we’ve got to take care of the ball.”

As erratic as the offense has been for Roaring Fork, the defense has been equally as consistent. The Rams held La Junta to less than 30 yards of total offense in the playoff opener, and most of Estes Park’s points were aided by turnovers.

“It’s all been speed for us,” Jensen said of his defense. “We’ve got to do it with speed and keep the kids flying to the football.”

Roaring Fork doesn’t have a player ranked in the top 10 in either tackles or sacks, and the balanced defensive play suits Jensen just fine.

“It’s so well distributed by everybody on defense it’s tough to take one kid out of the game,” Jensen said.

The Crusaders will likely attack the Ram defense primarily on the ground.

Kirk Niewenhuis ran for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Denver Christian’s 35-7 victory over Brush. He averages 7.7 yards per carry. Quarterback Kenny Katte has 703 passing yards on the season with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Jacob Vriesman is the most dangerous receiver, averaging more than 26 yards per catch.

The Rams will likely go with the two-pronged backfield attack of James Leonard and Max Green that was so effective in the later stages of the game last weekend. Both players eclipsed the 100-yard mark and Leonard has 312 yards in two postseason games.

“We’re going to use both backs more and we may go with four backs,” said Jensen, referring to sophomore backups Jake Bowman and Christian Tena. “We have enough guys to run the ball.”

Quarterback Dan Markoya is also a threat to run behind the solid Ram offensive line and has a speedy receiver in Green when he lines up outside. Green averages over 22 yards per catch.

The Rams won the coin flip with Eaton, so, if both teams win in the semis, Roaring Fork will host the state championship game next weekend. If Faith Christian defeats Eaton and Roaring Fork downs Denver Christian, the Rams will travel to Faith Christian.

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