Mustangs end season on high note
Kremmling, CO Colorado
The game felt closer than the 48-12 score that registered on the scoreboard at Eagle Valley High School where the West Grand Mustangs defeated Vail Christian to bring an end to the regular season.
Vail Christian stopped the initial drive by the Mustangs and then scored on a 66-yard touchdown pass to take an early 6-0 lead.
On the ensuing series for West Grand, the Saints stopped the Mustangs’ Travis Gore for no gain on a fourth-and-one play to retake possession of the ball in good field position.
What followed was a series of plays that turned around what could have been an ugly game for the Mustangs. West Grand had already clinched first place in the league, but a loss to Vail Christian would have been a tough way to end the regular season and wouldn’t have been the momentum builder every team hopes for heading into the playoffs.
First, Tim Ritschard intercepted a Vail Christian pass to stop a Saints drive. After giving the ball back to the Saints on a fumble, the Mustangs seized the moment, the ball and, most importantly, the lead when defensive lineman Zach Ahrens created a turnover. Ahrens hit the Vail quarterback just as he released the ball. The pigskin floated into the arms of an opportunistic Auztin Ramirez who then galloped 40 yards for the score. Gore then hit Ritschard for an 8-6 lead that West Grand never relinquished.
On the next series, Gore intercepted a Vail Christian pass and returned it 66 yards for a score.
Logan Cummings then caused a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that was recovered by West Grand’s Luke Roderick. On the next play Gore found Luke Miller for a 30-yard score. The two-point PAT on a Cummings run gave the Mustangs a 22-6 lead.
Literally within minutes, West Grand went from being down six points to holding a two-touchdown lead.
After exchanging possessions, Vail Christian embarked on a long drive that ended when Lloyd Coleman of West Grand blocked a field goal attempt by the Saints.
Taking advantage of a Vail Christian penalty on the next possession, the Mustangs scored on a long drive of their own that culminated in a 22-yard pass for a touchdown from Gore to Ritschard. Gore converted the two-point PAT on a running play to give West Grand a 30-6 lead.
Vail Christian nearly scored on the last play of the half on a 42-yard hook-and-ladder play. Fortunately, Ritschard made the touchdown-saving tackle.
In the second half, the Mustangs defense rose up and made several plays to keep the Saints at bay. Cummings, Ramirez, Coleman and Chase Hill all recorded sacks.
With five minutes left in the third quarter, Cummings scored on a five-yard run.
After the teams exchanged punts, West Grand scored again when Gore connected with Ritschard for an 89-yard pass play.
With freshman Nick Ritschard playing quarterback, the Mustangs scored one more touchdown. After a drive that featured a 33-yard run by Cummings and a completed pass from Nick Ritschard to his brother Tim Ritschard, brother Nick scored on a 26-yard run. That increased the score to 48-6 and triggered a running clock.
On the final play of the game, Vail Christian scored on a 21-yard pass play.
For the first time this year, somebody other than Gore led the team in rushing. Cummings had 76 yards on seven carries. Gore ran for 56 yards, Hill was credited with 26 rushing yards and Nick Ritschard had 32 yards rushing.
Gore completed 10 of 19 passes for 211 yards, three touchdowns, one PAT and one interception.
Tim Ritschard had five catches for 137 yards, two touchdowns and one PAT. He also had a good day punting the ball. For the season, the senior is averaging more than 40 yards per punt.
This Saturday, the West Grand Mustangs will host Sedgwick County in the first round of postseason play. Sedgwich County finished in fourth place in the tough Plains Division of the Central League.
The game, which is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start, is expected to be a hard-fought contest. The three teams that finished ahead of Sedgwick County are rated in the top five in the state of Colorado. They are Caliche (2), Dayspring Christian (4) and Merino (5).
Sedgwick features an attack that has been more geared toward running with two seniors backs who are quick and fast. The team is on the young side and is quarterbacked by a freshman. The lineman are big and play a physical style that one sideline pundit has compared to the Justice team that West Grand played earlier in the season.
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Citing staffing concerns and the high rate of illness, West Grand High School will switch to all remote learning for the remainder of the week.