LOUISVILLE — Oftentimes, football teams in Monarch’s position would have some chattering to do.
Across the state, Denver South is the keynote story of the Class 4A championship game (11 a.m., Saturday, Sports Authority Field at Mile High). The Rebels are the first Denver Public Schools team to reach a title game since 1990 and seem to have become a sentimental favorite.
Commendably absent from Monarch this week have been the predictable comments of “no one respects us” or “everybody is overlooking us” and “no one believed we could be here.”
That’s not to say the Coyotes (12-1) have ducked away silently. They’ve talked, but they’ve gone the other way with it. Rather than complaining that they are perceived as something of an afterthought outside their home surroundings, the Coyotes have praised Denver South (12-1).
“They have a surplus of skill position kids like you’ve never seen,” Monarch coach Phil Bravo said. “And up front, they replicate a junior college team with their size. On both sides of the ball, they’re a nightmare.”
The burly Rebels are especially deep at running back, where Pete Williams has filled in for CU-bound Phillip Lindsay, who endured a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.
Williams (1,474 yards and 17 touchdowns) was injured in the semifinals against Mesa Ridge, but sophomore Trevante Tasco filled in and scored two touchdowns. Williams will be ready to go in the title game.
“They’re athletic and they’re fast,” Coyotes linebacker Peter Mitchell said. “We’re going to have to adapt to that speed and catch up with them. They’ve got talent everywhere. To get to this point, you’ve got to be a great team.”
At the coaches press conference in the Denver Broncos media room this week, Monarch players took an extra gander at Denver South’s Samuel Mabany, a 6-foot-6 defensive end from Sudan.
“We’ve faced teams with one or two guys that big, but not with as much size as they’ve got across the board,” Monarch offensive tackle Austin Beswick said. “We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do with number 55 (Mabany).”
Don’t mistake Monarch’s comments for a lack of confidence. The Coyotes have done this throughout the postseason. They learn their opponents thoroughly, respect what they do, then compose a plan of attack to beat them.
Monarch hasn’t blown away anyone in the playoffs, but has recorded gritty wins of 10, 7 and 8 points against top-level foes (Falcon, Vista Ridge and Pueblo West, respectively).
“I think it’s actually been better for us,” Monarch linebacker Colin Hart said. “We don’t just go into a game thinking, oh, we’re going to blow out this team. We’re very mentally prepared.”
Monarch last appeared in the championship game in 2007, when the current seniors were seventh graders. The Coyotes fell 21-14 to Pueblo West in that one. Last season, the Coyotes were one game shy of reaching Mile High when they lost 20-0 to Pine Creek in the semifinals.
“I was here in the stands in ’07 with my dad watching that game, so it’s something I’ve always wanted to be a part of,” Coyotes defensive end Travis Gamblin said. “It’s great to be here, especially after being so close last year.”
The Coyotes are vying for their second title, hoping to join the 2002 team. Coyotes cornerback Geoff Clary’s brother, Matt, was on the team that defeated Golden 42-35 a decade ago.
Denver South hasn’t been to the finals since 1958, when the Rebels upended Pueblo Central 7-6 in the AAA game. Affable Rebels coach Tony Lindsay, when asked about the health of Williams after the injury in the semifinals, offered a gem.
He looked at Williams, who was in attendance, and said: “Pete, run around the room!”
Monarch might not be getting as much press outside the Boulder County area, but the Coyotes can’t truly be perceived as an underdog. They will utilize junior Ethan Marks, who has churned for 1,789 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.
The Coyotes’ team-based attack is prepared to take on the athletes from South.
“We’re a good team in that we don’t say we have a best player or whatever, or that it’s one person who won us the game,” Monarch quarterback Cole Watson said. “If anything, I think the linemen are the main leaders of the team because, without them, we wouldn’t get anywhere.”
NOTABLE: It is tough to infer much from the teams’ common opponents. Denver South was blown out 31-6 by Broomfield, a team Monarch defeated 42-7. But the Rebels have beaten Wheat Ridge twice, a Farmers squad that accounted for Monarch’s only loss. . . . Each team defeated Montbello, Kennedy and Standley Lake. . . . The fumbled kickoff in the Pueblo West game was recovered by an oft-debated Monarch player. Some said Mitchell, some said Hart, some said Braden Pape. “I was on top of the pile and didn’t have the ball,” Hart said. “But whether it was me, Petey or a mom in the stands, it’s fine with me. As long as she had the ball and was on our team.”