Victories by the volleyball and football teams at West Grand this past weekend have both high school teams excited about post regular season play that begins this weekend.
On the gridiron, the football team overran Soroco, 60-22, and the volleyball team defeated Meeker, one of the Western Slope League's top teams in three games. West Grand is hosting the district tournament on Friday and Saturday, while the football team will host Pikes Peak Christian on Saturday in a game that will determine which team advances to the playoff round of 16 teams.
This past weekend, the West Grand volleyball team finished its regular season play with two home matches against Vail Mountain on Thursday and Meeker on Saturday.
It was Senior Night on Thursday and the team took time to honor the seven seniors on the squad: Laura Billington, Kristina Ekren, Kaitlyn Adams, Carly Reynolds, Bailey Palmer, Katie Sanford, and Erica Lucas.
Vail Mountain came out ready to play, Coach Elizabeth Bauer said, and won the first two games. However, the Mustangs were unwilling to give up and they fought back to win the next two games, taking the match to a fifth game. Both teams were error prone throughout the match, Bauer said, and, unfortunately, West Grand had too many errors and lost the match.
"The seniors, as well as the other players, fought hard, but we just had errors at the wrong time," Coach Bauer added. "I'm extremely proud of the seniors this year and the leadership they have provided. We will definitely miss them next year."
The last regular season match on Saturday was very exciting for the Mustangs. To set the atmosphere, it was the annual "Think Pink" game to show support and awareness of breast cancer. The teams were dressed in pink, the gym was decorated with the pink theme and two volleyballs were given to two moms of volleyball players who have survived breast cancer.
The Meeker Cowboys came to town, second in the conference with only one previous conference loss. "They are a good team with solid play all around," Bauer said. "The Mustangs did not let that intimidate them, however, and came out with aggressive plays and the consistent confidence that we have been working on all year."
West Grand beat Meeker in three games. "It was an exciting match and we played very well all around. Everyone contributed to the win, with several girls stepping up their game," Coach Bauer added. "This is the time of the year to be playing our best and we are heading in that direction."
The district tournament is set up a bit differently this year with an actual eight-team tournament. The eight teams will play two four team brackets on Saturday with two teams emerging from each pool. The remaining four teams will play on Saturday with three of the four emerging to play the next weekend in the regional tournament.
"We are excited to give the athletes the postseason feel for all teams," Coach Bauer noted. "The district tournament is here in Kremmling this weekend with pool play on Friday and bracket play on Saturday. We would love to have as many fans as possible to spur us on in the tournament."
The football game on Friday against the Soroco Rams looked like a rout at times, but the Rams responded well and played hard to the final gun. The Mustangs started the first and third quarters in complete control on both offense and defense, scoring seemingly at will. However, the Rams provided excitement of their own at the end of the second quarter and for a stretch in the second half, moving the ball quickly down the field, utilizing an array of unique formations and plays.
West Grand had clinched the top spot in the Western Slope League play, assuring themselves of a favorable post-season matchup. The Western Slope League is matched against the Black Forest League for the cross-over matchups this weekend and, by finishing first in the league, the Mustangs knew they wouldn't be playing Elbert, Kiowa or Simla. Those three teams figure to be prominent in playoff action, with Elbert ranked as one of the top three teams for Class A-8 football.
The game was important, however, from the standpoint of winning the league championship outright and to help garner a more favorable seeding in the playoff bracket, should the Mustangs defeat Pikes Peak Christian this weekend.
Soroco received the opening kickoff and were stopped by the Mustangs on three downs, but they were able to convert on a fake punt. Two plays later, however, Nick Ritschard intercepted a pass from Nic Paxton at the West Grand 10-yard line.
The Mustangs moved quickly downfield to score on an 11-play drive that was highlighted by a 42-yard Ritschard run and culminated with an 11-yard pass from Ritschard to Casey Gore. Ritschard then found Jeremiah Elliott for the two-point conversion and a quick 8-0 lead.
West Grand stopped Soroco again and this time Kiley O'Brien returned the punt all the way to the Soroco six-yard line. Cole Tracy ran two times, once for six yards and again for one-yard and a touchdown.
After stopping the Rams on three plays, West Grand scored again when Leo Pesch ran 28 yards for a score. Ritschard tacked on the two-point conversion and the score was 22-0 and the game was starting to look like a runaway.
Soroco showed a lot of grit in this game and that started with a long drive that ended with a 26-yard pass from Paxson to Ryan Jeep. Paxson then caught a pass from Matt Regan to cut the scored to 22-8.
The Rams then successfully executed an onside kick and they looked like they really may be in business. However, Gore intercepted a pass from Regan to set up another score by West Grand, this one from Ritschard on a 17-yard run. The PAT was unsuccessful.
Soroco put together a 73-yard touchdown drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Regan to Paxson. On the successful PAT, Paxson pitched the ball to Regan who threw to Jeep in the endzone. The half ended with West Grand leading 28-16 but Soroco feeling like they might have some life.
The Mustangs came out in the second half and put the game away quickly, scoring three touchdowns and converting three PATs to build a 52-16 point lead in the third quarter. Ritschard scored on touchdown runs of 31 and 24 yards and then found O'Brien behind the Ram secondary for a 23-yard touchdown. Ritschard also scored on two PAT runs while Pesch tacked on the third PAT.
As the game wound down, Soroco scored on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Paxson to Jeep and a four-yard pass from Paxson to AJ Anderson while the Mustangs scored when Parker Robinson had a two-yard run and Tracy added the PAT on a run of his own.
In game statistics, Ritschard led the way in rushing with 186 yards on 21 carries, Pesch had 79 yards on eight runs, Tracy tacked on 69 yards on 11 carries while Gore and Elliott each ran for 12 yards and Robinson had 13 yards on two carries.
Ritschard passed for 80 yards and two touchdowns and a PAT on seven of 14 passes. Catching passes were O'Brien, two for 38 yards and a touchdown, Gore, two for 30 yards and a touchdown, Tracy, two for nine yards, and Elliott, one for three yards and a PAT.
This weekend, the Mustangs are matched up against Pikes Peak Christian, a 4-4 team from Colorado Springs. West Grand ended the season on a five-game winning streak and a 5-3 overall record. The game is scheduled to be played in Kremmling at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27.