LAKEWOOD — It’s that time during the football season when checking out the updated RPI rankings is a priority.
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“We know we have to win them all to get in a position we would like to be in,” Bear Creek coach Matt Steinfeldt said after a 42-17 victory Oct. 14 against Grand Junction at Jeffco Stadium. “Otherwise, we are going to be sitting on that Sunday morning waiting to see if we are in. We’ve got to clean somethings up and this was step No. 1.”
Bear Creek came into the late-afternoon tilt against Grand Junction on a two-game losing skid. The Bears (5-3, 1-2 in 4A Jeffco) suffered back-to-back losses to Golden and Dakota Ridge to begin conference play. With winning a league title and automatic to the 24-team 4A state tournament not a possibility the only hope to make the postseason is through the RPI system.
“We hit a mid-season slide,” Steinfeldt admitted. “Just like everyone else you get that injury bug and that’s hit us pretty hard. It has made things pretty challenging. We knew this was a must-win game.”
Bear Creek did all its scoring through the air in. Junior quarterback Adrian Rico had four touchdown passes of 10, 37, 16 and 16 yards before halftime. Senior Jerry Torrez had three of the scores with senior Elijah Thomas grabbing the fourth.
Rico didn’t start off very well. He threw interceptions on the Bears’ first two drives.
“After the first two early picks I just got them out of my head,” Rico said. “I was just looking toward the next opportunity. Always look to that next opportunity. I’m not going to get down on myself.”
Grand Junction (1-7, 0-2) was able to put a touchdown on the scoreboard late in the first half. Sophomore quarterback Will Applegate scored on a 11-yard touchdown run with 1:31 to go in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 28-10.
The Bears mounted a quick drive all the way down to Grand Junction’s 1-yard line, but a fumble on the final play of the first half prevented Bear Creek from extending its lead.
Maybe more costly on the final drive was Torrez was injured after making a 7-yard catch. The senior receiver didn’t return and was on crutches on the sideline for the remainder of the game. Steinfeldt said after the game he didn’t think the injury was too serious.
“(Torrez) is such a stud,” Rico said. “He is an all-star cornerback and receiver. He can do anything. He is special.”
Rico went back to work in the second half with a 29-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Aidan Brand. The junior quarterback tossed his single-game career high sixth touchdown pass in the fourth quarter with another 29-yard touchdown strike to Thomas.
“He (Rico) is a kid who made a couple of mistakes early, but the mistakes never seem to bother him,” said Steinfeldt of his quarterback that has 25 passing touchdowns on the season. “The easiest way to coach that out of him is instill confidence back into him and let him sling that ball around. That is what he does well.”
The Bears are on the road for the remainder of the regular season. Bear Creek is at the North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada this Thursday for a 4 p.m. kickoff against Standley Lake.
“We’ve got a tough game against a good Standley Lake team next week that will be in a similar position,” Steinfeldt said. “I think that will be a great game.”
The Bears finish off the regular season against No. 6 Ponderosa at Echo Park in Parker on Oct. 27.
“We have to focus in and lock in all week,” Rico said of the final two games of the season. “It takes a whole team effort Monday through Friday. It felt good to get back to winning this week.”
Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.
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