With playoff chances finished, Central still playing for pride
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.”