COLORADO SPRINGS — Having already beaten the Rampart Rams during the 2017 regular season, the Monarch football team entered its Class 4A first-round playoff matchup on Saturday fairly confident.
But the eighth-seeded Rams (9-2) had gotten back a number of key players who were missing in the teams' first meeting and had a surprise waiting for the ninth-seeded Coyotes (8-3) on the road at District 20 Stadium. Bolstered by the return of dynamic quarterback Keion Cross, and aided by the Coyotes losing their signal caller midway through the game, the Rams sent the Coyotes home to Louisville with a 24-14 loss.
"All in all, when you're on the road, it's a tough win to get," Coyotes head coach Phil Bravo said. "Both teams played hard and I'll miss this team. They're a really good bunch of kids."
Back on Sept. 8, the Coyotes picked up a low-scoring 14-7 win over the Rams in which both teams finished with fewer than 200 yards of offense. There were, however, plenty of fireworks before the first minute had passed in Saturday's rematch.
Monarch's Alex Matsumoto returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a score, which Rampart's Jared Behm answered with a 90-yard rushing touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. With Behm scoring again on a pass from Cross and Monarch's Cole Polluconi tying things up with a 1-yard rushing score, and with a pair of Coyotes possessions stalling in enemy territory and ending in interceptions, the score was tied 14-14 at halftime.
On the Coyotes' first possession of the second half, starting quarterback CJ Schmanski was injured while running outside of the pocket to escape a sack and would not return. Without its senior quarterback, the Coyotes offense could not score while the Rams added a field goal with 11:20 left in the fourth quarter and the speedy Cross eventually got loose for a 41-yard touchdown to give his team the final 10-point lead with 5:12 left in the game.
"Well, we had a chance to win it tied 14-14 and I felt really good about our chances at halftime," Bravo said. "But we went down the field in the second half and missed a field goal, which hurt us from a momentum standpoint. Then we had our quarterback hurt, which really restricted our execution and we were really limited offensively. I thought our defense played really valiant at times, and then at times I felt like Cross's speed had us on our heels a little bit.
"Having Cross back under center or in the pistol, he provides an explosiveness in a variety of holes in their read option. They didn't have him the first game, nor did they have number 30 (Jackson Beale) in the first game."
The Rams will take on top-seeded Pine Creek (10-1) in the next round.