The Monarch Coyotes are right back where they began the season.

They're ranked No. 1 in Class 4A in the latest Denver Post media and coaches football poll.

There've been seven weeks of angst in the Coyotes camp since they left the position following a Week 2 loss to then-No. 2 Wheat Ridge.

Losing the No. 1 ranking wasn't so much what got to the Coyotes that day. Who's to say, after all, who the state's best team is that early in the season?

But the Coyotes certainly felt like they were the best team on the field that day. The problem was, despite marching up and down the field, they couldn't hang on to the football in the red zone. Three times they fumbled away promising drives inside Wheat Ridge's 20-yard line on the way to a 12-7 defeat.

"It was nightmarish in a lot of ways because our kids were playing so hard," Monarch coach Phil Bravo said this week. "It sticks in your craw. I think every week our kids come out hard with that Wheat Ridge game just stuck in the back of their minds."

Perhaps no team has been more dominant in 4A since that defeat. No team has come within two touchdowns of the Coyotes since.

To be sure, MHS hasn't exactly played teams of Wheat Ridge's caliber every week. But there was a gritty road win over an underrated Montrose squad in Week 5. And then there was last week's 42-7 annihilation of then-No. 1 Broomfield, a win impressive enough that voters boosted the Coyotes over second-ranked and undefeated Ponderosa for the top spot.


Monarch (8-1, 4-0 Mountain League) plays on the road against rugged Standley Lake (7-2, 3-1) on Thursday night with a chance to clinch the conference title outright.

"They were excited," Bravo said of his players' reaction to being ranked No. 1 once again. "But the truth is that we've worked so hard over the last eight weeks that we've learned to just accept the polls for what they are."

There's plenty of truth in that. Being ranked No. 1 won't mean much if the Coyotes falter this week heading into the playoffs and hurt their chances of a premium seed in the postseason. And win or lose, the playoff seeding committee still might not give Monarch the top nod in the 16-team bracket.

But for one week at least, one also gets the sense that the Coyotes are back where they feel they belong -- and with a stomach-churning, motivating memory that just might help them stay there this time around.

Follow Josh on Twitter: @JoshLindenstein