West Grand sports update
In a wonderfully exciting and dramatic game with multiple momentum shifts, the West Grand Mustangs defeated Rangely, 42-35, in their Homecoming football game on Friday night.
The Lady Mustangs also started strong in their volleyball game with the Panthers of Rangely, but they were unable to maintain their advantage and lost to Rangely in a four-game match.
West Grand came into Friday night’s contest with a 0-3 record after having played a tough non-league schedule. Rangely was riding high on its 2-1 record, including two impressive offensive outputs against Plateau Valley and Nucla.
It was an important league game for both Rangely and West Grand as they will be vying for a favorable finish in the Western Slope League. Hayden figures to be the toughest team in the league, with its senior-heavy squad and a recent history of success in 11-man football action.
The rest of the league, including Soroco, Vail Christian and South Park will be competing with West Grand and Rangely for a favorable position in post-season play.
It was that backdrop against which Friday night’s Homecoming game was cast. Both teams had much to gain and lose. Games with high stakes don’t always deliver on promise but this game did not disappoint with six lead changes and enough momentum shifts to induce vertigo.
The game started well for West Grand. Rangely received the kickoff but was unable to gain a first down, forcing a punt. The Mustangs drove easily down the field and scored on a Nick Ritschard 14-yard run. Although the PAT was unsuccessful, the 6-0 lead was the first lead West Grand has had in a game this season.
The first half was relatively mild, compared to the fireworks of the second half. Rangely responded by scoring twice and leading the game at one point, 13-6. Ritschard and the Mustangs responded to that run with a 56-yard touchdown run. Leo Pesch’s successful PAT on a nice run around the end gave the lead back to West Grand, 14-13. That lead would hold up until halftime.
In the second half of the contest, Rangely scored first to retake the lead, 21-14. Despite several turnovers in the game and Rangely’s ability to score quickly, West Grand responded to every challenge. The Mustangs got the passing game in gear as Ritschard hit Kiley O’Brien for a 41-yard touchdown pass. Ritschard also had a 35-yard touchdown run as the Mustangs regained the lead, 28-21.
To Rangely’s credit, they also didn’t go easily into the night and retook the lead, 29-28.
West Grand put the hammer down on offense and scored on two more touchdown runs by Ritschard while Pesch tacked on a PAT.
That lead of 42-29 with four minutes left in the game seemed secure, but Rangely scored again to close the gap to 42-35 and had the ball again when time expired.
The rushing attack for the Mustangs was solid as Ritschard rambled for 294 yards on 26 carries. Pesch topped 100 yards in rushing with 108 yards on 18 carries. He seemed to get stronger as the game progressed with 81 yards earned on tough runs through the middle in the second half.
Ritschard was effective enough in the air to keep the Panther defense honest. He connected on nine of 15 throws for 80 yards and one touchdown.
Despite a 1-3 record, the Mustangs control their destiny for Western Slope League play as they are 1-0 with four league games left to play. This Saturday afternoon, they travel to South Park to take on the Burros.
This past Friday afternoon in volleyball action, both the C-team and junior varsity teams got off to slow starts and struggled to get momentum going, according to Coach Elizabeth Bauer.
The varsity players, however, came out with focused energy and fire in their eyes.
West Grand easily beat Rangely in the first game. Unfortunately, the Mustangs could not sustain the level of intensity that was needed to put Rangely away and lost the next three games, 16-25, 20-25, 17-25.
West Grand continued with solid passing, Coach Bauer said, but tentativeness and mistakes at the net compounded leading to the loss.
“It was a tough loss because we know that we can play better,” Bauer said. “As a team we have great potential, but in order to win in our league we have to find a way to consistently be aggressive and play with that confidence.”
The Mustangs are now 5-6 overall. With two more league games next week, Plateau Valley (away) on Friday and SoRoCo (home) on Saturday, the Mustangs look to learn from the loss and get back on the winning road.
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