Game of the Week: D20 rivals Liberty, Rampart open season

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Photo - Rampart quarterback Brio Rookey throws the ball while practicing with the rest of the Rampart football team to get ready for the big game this weekend against Liberty. They were practicing a Rampart High School on Tuesday, August 23, 2016. photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette
Rampart quarterback Brio Rookey throws the ball while practicing with the rest of the Rampart football team to get ready for the big game this weekend against Liberty. They were practicing a Rampart High School on Tuesday, August 23, 2016. photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette

Rampart wanted to get its season started early in order to make it pay off late.

The situation was no different for Liberty.

As a result, the District 20 programs open Zero Week going head to head, making for a nice rivalry game to kick off the prep football season on Saturday in The Gazette Game of the Week.

The two teams share similarities. Both programs are in their third season under their respective coaches. Under those coaches, both teams are attempting to build a winning tradition and they feel like they are on that path.

And in similar fashion, both teams wanted to play early in hopes that a bye the week before conference play opens will allow them to work on any necessary adjustments before stepping into league.

"We're hoping it's a big benefit," Liberty coach Marc Sites said. "Obviously, there's a week there where we can evaluate where we're at: offense, defense, special teams. If there's things we need to install, adjustments or personnel, then we've got some extra time to do that. Because once you get in the season the weeks just fly by. And trying to find time sometimes is challenging."

Rampart's Rob Royer echoed Sites.

"The goal behind it was to play five nonleague games and we've got a bye week five," said Royer, pointing out it's the first time the Rams have played in Zero Week in his three years at the helm. "So we'll have a little bit of time to get ready for our league opponents."

With realignment for this two-year cycle, the two teams, which are separated by a mere three-mile drive (or about the distance of a cross country race), were put into different conferences.

Rampart remains in the revamped Pikes Peak League, with no teams from its district in conference, despite the fact there are four programs from the district in 4A.

The same goes for Liberty, which was moved into the Foothills League, though the Lancers also have district school Air Academy on their nonconference schedule.

Both teams went 5-5 last season. Liberty edged Rampart 34-32 for the program's first win over its rival. That kind of victory has students around Liberty's campus already hoping to see it again. It also puts a little pressure on the Lancers.

"Definitely a big thing for us, we're all super-excited," said junior Matt Lively, who plays slot receiver, outside linebacker and punter for the Lancers. "Last year was the first year we actually won. Pretty big to have to go back and step into Zero Week for it."

Royer, a Rampart graduate, is also excited to open against a lifetime rival.

"It's a big deal for us," Royer said. "The Liberty-Rampart rivalry has been a great one since those guys came into existence. I was playing here when Liberty was created. They were one of my first rivalries."

Rampart will be looking to get back into the win column against the Lancers. Behind some strong senior leadership, the Rams feel like that is certainly possible.

"It means a lot, because they're our rival in the district," Rampart senior Jonathan Kitazono said. "I think a lot of people are going to come to see it and that a lot of people know that this game means a lot to both teams."