LOUISVILLE — The Monarch defense has faced several vigorous rushing attacks this season. The Coyotes have seen a few top-notch passing offenses as well.
On Friday night, they’ll see both.
With the degree of difficulty rising in the Class 4A football quarterfinals, Monarch faces its biggest challenge yet in multidimensional Vista Ridge, a Wolves squad that passes the ball nearly as well as it runs it.
“You can only come in with the mindset that we’re going to work to contain,” Monarch coach Phil Bravo said. “Stopping high prolific offenses is a real difficult task, especially balanced ones. We’re just going to do our best to contain their speed and not give up big plays.”
Odds are, the Coyotes will be seeing a lot of No. 30 in this battle of 10-1 squads (7 p.m., Vista Ridge High School). That belongs to Wolves senior running back Brandon Cartagena, who has averaged 8.7 yards per carry en route to 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns.
If Monarch can bottle up the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder, Vista Ridge figures to counter with quarterback Brayden Stewart. He’s thrown for 1,743 yards and 15 touchdowns, although he’s been picked off 11 times.
“Our defense is pretty balanced this year and it seems like everybody is doing their part,” Coyotes defensive tackle Connor Fitzgerald said. “We were able to adapt to (Falcon). Now we have to do what we do best to beat this team.”
Monarch struggled early in the 24-14 first-round win against Falcon, but after figuring out the Falcons’ attack outscored them 17-0 in the second half. The idea this time, naturally, is not to fall in the early hole.
“It was a good learning experience for us,” Monarch cornerback Geoff Clary said. “We’ll take what we learned in that game and apply it to this one. People are excited. It’s just another game for us against another good football team.”
Vista Ridge figures to pose a threat similar to that of Falcon, although a tad more pass-heavy. Another Colorado Springs-area squad, the Wolves nipped Falcon 23-21 in Pikes Peak League play during the regular season.
Monarch enters the contest as healthy as it has been all season, with running back Ethan Marks (1,481 yards) labeled 100 percent by Bravo. Marks had dealt with sprained AC joints and inflamed discs in his lower back for much of the regular season.
The defense is full-strength as well, eager to disrupt Vista Ridge’s multi-versed attack.
“It’s going to be a brawl,” Monarch linebacker Colin Hart said.
Monarch is projected to lose 28-17 in MaxPreps.com‘s Freeman Computer projections. The application correctly forecasted six of 4A’s eight first-round winners, including Monarch and Vista Ridge. It predicted Monarch to beat Falcon 21-20 (it was 24-14) and Vista Ridge to triumph 35-8 against Canon City (it was 41-7). … Clary’s older brother, Matt, was part of Monarch’s lone title team in 2002. The group was honored earlier this season at halftime of a home game against Golden. Asked about wrangling a second ring for the family, Geoff Clary said: “Sure, that’d be awesome. But every year you go out for football, you want to play for a championship. That’s the goal no matter what.”
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