Wildcard rankings add intrigue to Fruita-Junction game

There’s already plenty to play for between the Grand Junction and Fruita Monument high school football teams.

The Mesa County School District 51 rivals are both undefeated in conference play. Grand Junction (7-0, 2-0 Southwestern Conference) is ranked No. 1 in the Denver Post Class 5A media poll and moved up to No. 1 in the all-important Class 5A wildcard points standings that determine playoff seeds.

“The No. 1 or 2 spot doesn’t matter,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said. “Ralston Valley or Grandview could pass us up.

“This is the one year in 5A football, a lot of teams feel like they have a chance to win the state championship, so you want a good seed.”

Fruita Monument (4-3, 2-0 SWC) is ranked 32nd in the Class 5A wildcard points. A win could secure a playoff berth. A loss will likely put the Wildcats, who have been removed from CHSAA restriction after an offseason infraction, in a must-win situation next week against Montrose.

“We have a rivalry game every week in the Southwestern Conference, but our No. 1 rivalry is Fruita,” Owens said. “With where they are in the wildcard points, they are already in playoff mode. They need at least one win if not two to get in the playoffs.”

Grand Junction is coming off a hard-fought 49-21 victory over Montrose.

“The biggest thing is we got to play four quarters,” Owens said. “We only had two games we’ve played four quarters. It’s good for our guys to do that.”

Fruita Monument has won three consecutive games and nearly had back-to-back shutouts on defense.

“It will be important to play good defense,” Fruita coach Sean Mulvey said. “The kids understand it’s a very important game. We’ve got to play loose and relaxed. We can’t get uptight.”

No. 7 Montrose (6-1, 0-1 SWC) at Central (1-6, 0-3 SWC), 7 p.m., today: The Indians are in the hunt for a Class 4A home playoff game. The Warriors are trying to salvage what’s left of the season and finish strong.

No. 7 Palisade (6-1, 3-1 3A WSC) at Steamboat Springs (0-7, 0-4 WSC), 7 p.m., Friday: The Bulldogs, ranked fifth in the Class 3A wildcard points, face a desperate team on an 18-game losing streak, with undefeated Rifle on deck.

Moffat County (1-6, 1-3 3A WSC) at No. 5 Rifle (7-0, 4-0 WSC), 7 p.m., Friday: The Bears have answered every opponent’s challenge, but can’t overlook the Bulldogs with Palisade up next.

Delta (4-3, 2-2 3A WSC) at No. 8 Battle Mountain (6-1, 3-1 WSC), 7 p.m., Friday: The Panthers face another ranked team on back-to-back weeks.

Grand Valley (3-4, 2-2 2A WSC) at Olathe (4-3, 3-1 WSC), 7 p.m., Friday: The Pirates are 18th in the latest Class 2A wildcard points and need to defeat the Cardinals, who are coming off a 34-7 victory over Basalt last week.

Cedaredge (2-5, 1-3 WSC) at Roaring Fork (2-5, 2-2 WSC), 7 p.m., Friday: The Bruins are trying to end a three-game losing streak. The Rams will try to rebound from a 31-6 loss to Gunnison.

Paonia (4-3, 2-1 1A WSC) at No. 2 Hotchkiss (7-0, 3-0 1A WSC), 7 p.m., Friday: The Bulldogs have rolled by every opponent, but this week they face a rival fighting for a playoff spot.

Plateau Valley (0-6, 0-3 A8 WC) at Nucla (1-5, 0-3 A8 WC), 7 p.m., Friday: The winner of this game will finish fourth in the West Division and get a conference crossover game in Week 9. The loser’s season ends.


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