Familiar faces

Fruita coach knows plenty about Wildcats' first-round foe

Fruita Monument running back Kyle Fineran, left, will one of the Wildcats’ key players when Fruita opens the Class 4A state playoffs at Monarch this afternoon. Fineran has four receiving touchdowns in the Wildcats’ run-heavy offense.



Fruita Monument running back Braeden Graham is the leading rusher for the Wildcats. The junior has amassed 1,349 yards on the ground for the 10th-seeded Wildcats, who come into today’s first-round playoff game with Class 4A’s top rushing offense.



QUICKREAD

Class 4A Football Playoffs

Fruita Monument (6-4) vs. Monarch (7-3), 1 p.m. today, Centaurus High School

Central offense: 68.5 yards passing, 336.6 yards rushing per game.

Monarch offense: 67.8 yards passing, 275.4 yards rushing per game.

Key players

Fruita Monument: Soph. QB Zach Rush, 324 yards passing, 4 TDs, 3 interceptions; Jr. RB Braeden Graham, 1,349 yards rushing, 16 TD; Sr. FB Logan Triplett, 1,165 yards, 18 TDs; Sr. WR Kyle Fineran, 15 receptions, 272 yards, 4 TDs; Sr. LB Ty Bird, 113 tackles; Sr. DB Travis Newland, 24 tackles, five interceptions.

Monarch: Sr. QB Stone MacIntyre, 687 yards passing, 8 TDs, 1 interception; Sr. RB Alex Bradfield, 1,077 yards rushing, 12 TDs; Sr. RB Zach Bastres, 1,031 yards rushing, 9 TDs; Sr. WR Easton Hall, 23 receptions, 354 yards, 5 TDs.

Key to game: Fruita must win the time-of-possession battle and avoid turnovers to defeat Monarch.



Fruita Monument High School football coach Todd Casebier became very familiar with Monarch several years ago when he was coaching in Montrose.

The Indians played a home-and-home series with coach Philip Bravo and the Coyotes. In 2012, Montrose played Monarch in Louisville and lost. The Coyotes went on to win the Class 4A state championship.

The next year, with Monarch ranked No. 1, the Indians scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to complete a come-from-behind upset. Montrose went on to play for a state championship that year, falling to Pine Creek.

For Monarch, not much has changed since then. The Coyotes spent two relatively unsuccessful years in Class 5A before returning to 4A this season, running the same offensive and defensive schemes throughout.

In the lower classification, Monarch’s run-heavy style and stout defense has again brought success. The Coyotes (7-3) went undefeated through the 4A Northern Conference with the ninth-best rushing attack in Class 4A.

The best rushing offense in the classification, however, belongs to 10th-seeded Fruita.

The Wildcats (6-4) tore through the final six games of the season, scoring at least 41 points in each game. Fruita has two running backs with more than 1,000 yards rushing this season in Braeden Graham and Logan Triplett and got sophomore quarterback Zach Rush back from injury one week ago.

For Casebier, this group is as battle-tested as anyone in the classification.

“We’ve had the highs,” Casebier said. “We’ve scored a lot of points in the last several weeks. We’ve also had the lows and know we were beat earlier in the season. We know we can be beat and this is a good team at home. But we’re also confident. Most of these guys played on the team last year where we had to go on the road twice in the (5A) playoffs. They know what they’re capable of and how well you have to play in these games.”

Monarch features a pair of 1,000-yard rushers who operate largely as wingbacks in a veer offense. Casebier compared seniors Alex Bradfield and Zach Bastres to Graham, saying they’re “both fast enough to play tailback, but tough enough to play fullback.”

The Coyotes will often send a wingback in motion, pitch to one side of the field and run off tackle. Casebier said Monarch will run that same play “14 or 15 times in a row, if you give it to them” and said the Coyotes’ possession-oriented approach will make defensive stops key.

“We have to win first down,” Casebier said. “Holding them to second and 9 improves our chances of finding a way to stop them. It’s important to keep them out of short-yardage situations because stops will be at a premium with how much we’re both trying to possess the football.”

Monarch also features senior quarterback Stone MacIntyre, son of University of Colorado football coach Mike MacIntyre, who has thrown for 687 yards on 80 attempts.

“Monarch and Pine Creek are really the measuring sticks for 4A programs,” Casebier said. “That’s where we’re trying to be.”


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