Just over seven miles separates Vista Ridge High School from Pine Creek, making for an exciting crosstown rivalry between the two 4A squads. But the Eagles’ recent rush to the top of the state rankings has skewed the series in their favor - winning the matchup four years in a row.
Friday marks what Vista Ridge hopes to be a new chapter in the rivalry as the Wolves now boast a more well-rounded offense to counter Pine Creek’s power.
Friday’s nonconference game at D20 Stadium is The Gazette Preps Game of the Week.
A quick glance at either team’s scouting report and two names will jump off the page: Pine Creek’s David Moore III, who has 501 rushing yards and is responsible for six of the team’s seven touchdowns so far this season; and Vista Ridge's Jaylen Thomas, who is a threat no matter where he is on the field with 539 all-purpose yards and five scores.
“Obviously they have a kid back there who is a special kind of athlete, and we just have to make sure we do what we are supposed to do defensively,” Vista Ridge coach Jerimi Calip said. “But Jaylen is also one of those kids where defenses need to know where he is at all times because he can do so many different things. He’s a threat to score whether we put him at quarterback, running back, receiver, so he’s one of those kids where I'm glad he's on my team.”
Last week against Fountain-Fort Carson the Pine Creek (3-0) defense tightened up its pass rush to put pressure on the Trojans’ dual-threat quarterback, which Pine Creek coach Todd Miller said was great preparation to the scheme and mobility of the Vista Ridge offense.
“Last week was a great preparation for us because (F-FC quarterback Eric Donnell) was a fantastic football player, and he’s very similar to (Jaylen Thomas),” Miller said.
Although Moore has been limited to his powerful ground game so far this season, the Eagles also boast talent in the backfield in Wyatt Wieland, who has 118 receiving yards, and is also second on the team in rushing with 136.
While each team features a highlight-reel worthy offense, Pine Creek and Vista Ridge (2-1) each have a handful of defenders who have set the tone through week four. Nine Eagle defenders have more than 10 tackles on the season, led by Sam Miller (30 tackles, three for a loss) and Daniel Bone (25 tackles, 11 solo).
“Our defense is very fundamentally sound,” Miller said. “We have a long, proud history of being very good on defense and they’re trying to do everything they can to uphold that honor of wearing those black shirts, and doing everything they can to keep points off the board.”
Pine Creek's defense has limited opponents to just two touchdowns this season.
Vista Ridge's defense is led by Carter Bussone, who has 29 tackles on the season, and Brian Jones, with 27.
“Carter is kind of the quarterback of our defense and he’s one of those kids that is just always in the right place to make a tackle,” Calip said.
Despite entering arguably their most competitive game of the season, Thomas said the Wolves are confident, and learned from their 2-0 rebound after a Week 1 loss.
“I think we have done pretty well but we’ve obviously left some holes inside our offense and defense, so we will just continue to get better at those keys,” Thomas said. “We left a lot of plays out there on the field against Windsor (in Week 1) so it gives us a lot of confidence to come into this week. We just have to be smart and focused, and get the intensity going.”
WOLVES-EAGLES AT A GLANCE
Game info: Vista Ridge Wolves at Pine Creek Eagles, Friday at 7 p.m. at D20 Stadium … nonconference game.
Media: Follow @LindseySquints and @HughJohnson707 on Twitter for updates from the game, and follow GazettePreps on Snapchat for an exclusive sideline snap story, interviews and more.
Teams: Pine Creek has started its season strong as the reigning 4A state champion, and has outscored opponents 55-14 in its 3-0 start. … Despite falling to No. 18 Windsor in Week 1, Vista Ridge rebounded in a big way, winning its next two games handily, outscoring opponents 77-30 in weeks 2 and 3.
Stat leaders: All eyes will be on Pine Creek’s David Moore III, who has racked up 501 rushing yards and is responsible for six of the team’s seven touchdowns so far this season. Vista Ridge also has a formidable threat in Jaylen Thomas, who has 539 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns through three games.