A pair of seven-game win streaks will be on the line when Fort Collins visits Ralston Valley tonight in the second round of the CHSAA Class 5A state football playoffs.
The Lambkins won a playoff game for the first time since 2006 last week against Lakewood, and have been using the momentum from that game in practice this week.
“It’s been five years and I think the guys all kind of felt that weight on their shoulders, I know we did as coaches,” Fort Collins coach Eric Rice said. “Spirits are just great, practices have been really encouraging. We’re the only team left in the city playing, the kids are real proud of that and they want to represent the city of Fort Collins well.”
Second overall seed Ralston Valley (9-1) dismantled Castle View, 45-0, in its previous game behind a balanced offensive attack and three passing touchdowns from quarterback Jacob Knipp.
Knipp has thrown for 2,310 yards and 26 touchdowns with only six interceptions while picking up 157 yards on the ground.
The Mustangs have also rushed for 1,883 yards as a team with no individual back gaining more than 424.
“They’re pretty diverse, offensively. They will go into the scrum offense where everybody’s in tight and they’re trying to mash you out of there with their big offensive lineman and the next play they’re in the spread with five receivers throwing the ball,” Rice said. “You have to be ready to adapt and to adjust.”
That balance has allowed Ralston Valley to average 39.2 points per game and win its games by nearly 27 points, on average.
Fort Collins, by comparison, was outscored 179-195 this season and only scored more than 40 once.
But the Lambkins (7-3) aren’t intimidated by the Mustangs after playing a challenging nonconference schedule that included three of the top ten overall seeds in the playoffs.
“We’ve played some hard teams this year and we all know we can beat any team on any given day, we’re just fine playing them,” senior quarterback Caleb Seeton said.
Fort Collins also hopes the fact that it has clawed through tough games recently while Ralston Valley has been cruising past opponents for the last month will give the Lambkins an edge.
“Our kids have been able to make plays when the chips seem like they’ve been stacked against us,” Rice said. “We’re going to play up that confidence piece and hopefully being a little overlooked would be nice.”
In order to pull out the win and advance to the quarterfinals, the Lambkins will need to win the turnover battle in addition to field position.
“They’ve lived on their half of the 50 these last two weeks,” Rice said.
Ultimately, Fort Collins will lean on the grit and defense that has brought it this far.
“I guarantee we outwork ’em,” Rice told his team after practice. “I guarantee it.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada.