Gazette Preps Game of the Week: Rampart eyes second-straight league title after running wild all year

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Photo - Rampart quarterback Keion Cross rushes the ball up the field before scoring a touchdown during the Vista Ridge and Rampart football game at Vista Ridge High School on Friday, November 4, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette
Rampart quarterback Keion Cross rushes the ball up the field before scoring a touchdown during the Vista Ridge and Rampart football game at Vista Ridge High School on Friday, November 4, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

It's deja vu for the Rampart Rams who take on league foe Vista Ridge on Friday night at D-20 Stadium for the 4A Pikes Peak League title.

The Rams beat the Wolves last season for their first league title in 15 years. Now, Rampart looks to make it two in a row.

Living up their mascot, Rampart has been ramming the ball down opponents' throats this year, amassing an incredible 319.6 rushing yards per game. That's a league best and the second-highest mark in Class 4A football statewide. The Rams have scored 35 rushing touchdowns to go with those yards.

"That's the great thing, from our centers to our guards and tackles and we've got two pretty special tight ends, they do a great job coming out and understanding the game plan and trying to execute it to the best of their ability and when they do, our running backs have some great holes to run through," Rampart coach Rob Royer said.

And the Rams are deep at the running back position; very deep. On Oct. 19 in a Thursday night game against the Palmer Terrors, the Rams split 26 carries between 13 players, rushing for 466 total yards and eight scores. According to the box score, Rampart didn't even attempt a pass.

"I think it's a pretty good thing for us. Being able to spread the ball out and not just have one single weapon in the backfield, it's been a big advantage for us this year," Royer said. "Whether that's Keion Cross or Jared Behm or Seth Sheppard, Ethan Spendlove, Jake Pavlica. We've got a lot of kids who can tote the rock real well."

The Rams' physicality isn't limited to offense, defensively they are just as tough. They lead the Pikes Peak League in sacks and are tied with Vista Ridge for most interceptions. In nine games, only two teams have scored more than 20 points and the Rams have held five teams to less than 10 points.

The Wolves match up well with the Rams, however. They lead the league in tackles this season and are second in rushing yards per game (229), rushing touchdowns (22) and total touchdowns (41 to Rampart's 42). Vista Ridge's offense has found a rhythm as well. It has scored 35, 54 and 63 points in the past three games.

Spendlove, who is one of the Rams' leading tacklers as an outside linebacker, isn't daunted by Vista Ridge's numbers and said his game plan is to stick with what he's done all year.

"Again just keep pushing through adversity as it comes and just do as we do every game," he said.

As the Rams are on the doorstep of a second-straight league title, Royer, who is entering his fourth year as Rampart's coach, said he's proud of the players his seniors have become.

"The good thing about these kids is that it's my fourth year here, it's their senior year so we've had them for four years and what we're seeing this year is the product of their hard work over four years and super proud of that leadership and what they've become on the field and more importantly in the classroom," he said.