Ralston Valley’s defense made an early-season statement Friday night at Halftime Help Stadium.
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The Mustangs — No. 4 in the MaxPreps Class 5A football preseason rankings — relied heavily on its defense to pull out a 13-7 road victory against Mountain Vista.
“The defense played so incredibly resilient the entire night,” Ralston Valley coach Jared Yannacito said. “They played phenomenal game. They played tough and did everything that we look for. Super proud of how they played tonight.”
Ralston Valley took a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter after a 1-yard touchdown run by senior Brady Weldon and 42-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Logan Madden to junior Liam Beattie. However, Mountain Vista got a late first-half touchdown on a half-back pass by junior Jack Blais to junior Sean Conway to trim the lead to 13-7 at halftime.
Both the Mustangs and Golden Eagles had long drives in the second half, but both defensives stood their ground in what ended up being a scoreless second half.
“When you play a team like Mountain Vista or any of these ranked teams we are going to play the goal is to win the football game,” Yannacito said. “Whether it is defense, special teams or offense, we all have to carry our weight.”
Senior defensive back Jack Wagner did more than carry his weight. Wagner intercepted Mountain Vista junior quarterback Austyn Modrzewski twice, including a pick in the final minutes to seal the victory.
“It was just a blackout momentum. It was just so surreal,” Wagner said of his game-sealing interception with under 2 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. “When that ball went up in the air the only thing I was thinking about was that I was going to come down with it. I knew I had to do it for my team so we could win this game.”
The interception allowed the Mustangs to take a couple of knees to run out the clock and get the big Zero Week victory.
“Wagner made a great play,” Yannacito said of the senior defensive back’s second interception. “Our whole defense got after it the whole night and made him (Modrewski) get rid of the ball.”
Modrewski threw for over 3,000 yards and 34 touchdowns last year as the Golden Eagles scored double-digits in every game last season. Ralston Valley’s defense put pressure on the junior quarterback the whole night in holding Mountain Vista to just 7 points.
“Our defensive line is one of our strongest suits,” Ralston Valley senior defensive lineman Jake Huffman said. “Our front-four and even our front-seven we know we can count on them.”
Mountain Vista drove inside Ralston Valley’s 10-yard on a pair of drives in the second half. Modrewski was sacked on back-to-back plays by Huffman and senior Tyrese Johnson that pushed the Golden Eagles from the 5-yard line to the 33-yard line to force a punt midway through the third quarter.
On another deep drive in the fourth quarter, Modrewski threw three straight incompletion from the Mustangs’ 7-yard line to turn the ball over on downs with 6 minutes to play.
“Honestly, we were ready for it all,” Wagner said of limiting Mountain Vista to just the one score. “We planned for everything all week. We all did our jobs.”
Ralston Valley’s offense couldn’t get much going in the second half. The Mustangs drove inside the 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but a fumbled handoff gave the ball back to Mountain Vista.
A big pass play from Madden to senior Jackson Hansen gave the Mustangs the chance to put the game away, but an incomplete pass on a fourth-down play from Mountain Vista’s 7-yard line with under 2 minutes to play gave the ball back to the Golden Eagles.
“Our kicker (Beattie) was hurt,” Yannacito said about going for it on fourth down instead of kicking a short field goal that would have given the Mustangs a 2-score lead with less than 2 minutes to play. “It was one of those situations where we didn’t have our kicker. We felt good about our offense and good about our defense not letting them drive the distance.”
Wagner made sure Yannacito decision was the right one.
“After that last pick we were just freaking out,” Huffman said. “It was such a great game.”
Ralston Valley stays on the road next week to face No. 1 and four-time defending 5A state champion Cherry Creek. The Bruins will host the Mustangs at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, at Stutler Bowl.
Ralston Valley has a bye week after facing Cherry Creek before finishing its non-league schedule gauntlet. The Mustangs have home games at the North Area Athletic Complex against No. 6 Grandview, No. 5 Regis Jesuit and No. 2 Valor Christian over a three-week span in September.
Mountain Vista will get another good test against Heritage, ranked No. 9 in the 4A preseason rankings. The Eagles host the Golden Eagles on Friday, Aug. 25.
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.
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