With playoff chances finished, Central still playing for pride

Aaron Wallway and the Central Warriors know they won’t be in the Class 5A playoffs, but the senior running back/quarterback will continue to play hard.


Montrose at Fruita Monument

Thursday, 7 p.m., Stocker Stadium


RECORDS: Fruita Monument 3-5, 2-1 Southwestern Conference; Montrose 5-3, 1-1 SWC.

LAST WEEK: Fruita Monument lost 28-10 to Grand Junction; Montrose defeated Central 26-15.

GAME NOTES: Montrose broke a three-game losing streak last week against Central, with running back Bryce Gaber rushing for 203 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries.

The Indians are a run-first team, with only 36 pass attempts this season, compared to 341 rushes.

Montrose is running into a Fruita Monument team needing a win to stay alive in the 5A playoff hunt.

Montrose has a lot of two-way players; only cornerback/wide receiver Tyler Daniels plays on both sides of the ball for Fruita.

“I like platooning kids,” Fruita coach Shawn Marsh said. “I think it helps the entire group focus and make changes throughout a game.”

This is Fruita’s final game of the regular season. Montrose plays next week against Durango.

Durango at Grand Junction

Friday, 7 p.m., Stocker Stadium


RECORDS: Grand Junction 7-1, 3-0 SWC; Durango 4-4, 0-3 SWC

LAST WEEK: Grand Junction defeated Fruita Monument 28-10; Durango defeated Kirtland Central, N.M., 21-0

GAME NOTES: Durango has only one win against a team from Colorado (17-0 against Doherty), with its other three wins coming against schools from New Mexico.

“Durango is dangerous,” Tigers coach Robbie Owens said. “We can’t look ahead at all because if we were to lose this game it would really diminish what we’ve been fighting for.”

The Tigers are fighting for a couple of things, beginning with an undefeated conference season. A win against Durango will also help Grand Junction maintain a top-10 spot in the 5A wild-card standings.

“We’ve accomplished a lot of goals this year,” Owens said. “But we’ve been telling the kids the next game is the most important one of the year.”

Durango is led by junior quarterback Joe Keresey, who has thrown for 1,218 yards and nine touchdowns this season.

Palisade at Rifle

Friday, 7 p.m., Rifle High School


RECORDS: Palisade 7-1, 3-1 Western Slope conf.; Rifle 6-2, 3-1 Western Slope conf.

LAST WEEK: Palisade defeated Steamboat Springs 46-0; Rifle lost 21-18 to Moffat County.

GAME NOTES: The Bears must win Friday’s game to stay alive in the Class 3A playoffs after losing a dogfight last week against Moffat County.

Running back Ryan Moeller has the ability to break off big runs, which he showed last week with a 60-yard TD run.

Since losing 21-20 to Glenwood Springs, Palisade has won its past four games by a combined score of 169-18.

The Bulldogs allowed only 42 yards of offense to Steamboat Springs, and aren’t looking to change anything at this point of the year.

“We just have to get better every day,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “It’s not rocket science.”

Lakewood at Central

Saturday, 1 p.m., Stocker Stadium

RADIO: none

RECORDS: Central 2-6, 1-3 SWC; Lakewood 7-1, 5-1 Denver Conference.

LAST WEEK: Central lost 26-15 to Montrose; Lakewood defeated Montbello 38-6.

GAME NOTES: Lakewood has an impressive record, but the Tigers don’t yet have a signature win. Lakewood has defeated only one team with a winning record (Denver East, 33-21).

The Tigers are led by quarterback Dylan Nelson, who has nearly 1,500 yards of total offense this season.

Running back Keenan Collins is a threat out of the backfield with 514 rushing yards and 12 catches.

“We are looking forward to the challenge,” Central coach Vern McGee said. “They are a good football team, but we aren’t terrified of them.” Quarterback Taylor Sanchez is out with a concussion. The Warriors will most likely rotate sophomore Noah Sanchez and senior Aaron Wallway at quarterback.

The Central High School football team was eliminated from the Class 5A postseason with last week’s 26-15 loss at Montrose.

The Warriors (2-6) are one of many teams across Colorado that know the chance to compete for a state championship is gone, but refuse to give up on the season.

“It came quick,” Central coach Vern McGee said of the final week of the regular season. “I want to still get better and I want us to be competitive.”

Class 5A teams that don’t qualify for the 32-team playoffs have a non-qualifier game the first weekend of November. Central will play one of those games, with pairings determined after this weekend’s games.

The Warriors are No. 46 in the wild-card standings this week, and would play at No. 45 Smoky Hill if the standings remain the same.

Central’s season didn’t get off to a great start, with losses in the first three games, including the season opener 30-14 to Palisade, now the second-ranked team in Class 3A.

The Warriors recovered with a 41-7 win over Hinkley before back-to-back losses to Fruita Monument and Grand Junction.

Central managed a 24-21 win over Durango to keep its playoff hopes alive, but Friday’s loss in the mud at Montrose killed the Warriors’ postseason chances.

This is the first time Central has missed the playoffs since joining 5A in 2008.

“We’ve been mathematically out of it for a few weeks now,” McGee said. “You have to have at least four wins to get in and that’s not even going to be a guarantee this year.”

McGee said the Warriors never accomplished the main goal they set before the season began.

“We wanted to tackle better because we missed way too many tackles last year,” McGee said. “I’m disappointed to say we didn’t get better at it like we would have wanted to.”

McGee knew he had an inexperienced team this season, but persistent injuries hampered whatever experience the Warriors had.

Returning starters Joe Smith, Thomas Holman, Alec Rupe, Taylor Sanchez, Marshall Grimsley and Dylan Johnson all had to miss practice and game time because of injuries.

“We had weeks where we were afraid to have too much contact in drills because we were losing players,” McGee said. “When stuff like that happens you hope it’s not something that keeps them out of games, but it has been.”

Sanchez, the Warriors’ starting quarterback, will miss this week’s game against Lakewood, No. 8 in the wild-card standings, with a concussion. Sanchez has been the Warriors’ leading offensive threat, with 1,063 yards of total offense.

Central tailback Aaron Wallway will play quarterback against the Tigers. Wallway took the snaps the third week of the season against Fort Collins.

“I try to feel confident in what I can do,” Wallway said. “Hopefully I can get some reps and be ready.”

Wallway is a senior captain, and has had some big games this season, rushing for 235 yards and four touchdowns against Hinkley.

“I hope a lot of people don’t give up or quit or say it’s over,” Wallway said. “For me, I love to play, so even if it’s the last game, I’ll be going all-out.”

The Warriors will probably empty the playbook in their final two games.

“We’ve practiced some plays that we haven’t gotten to use yet,” McGee said. “Defensively we’ll probably blitz more, because we don’t have anything to lose.”


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