Ralston Valley defense delivers key second-half stops, limiting Week Zero quarterback duel against Mountain Vista

HIGHLANDS RANCH — For two of the leading passers in the state to do battle in the opening week of the season, it quickly turned into a defensive duel.

The two quarterbacks, Logan Madden of No. 4’s Ralston Valley, and Mountain Vista’s Austyn Modrzewski, who combined for over 5,000 yards last season, were stymied in a Week Zero showdown as the teams had four turnovers on Friday night. The Mustangs’ second-half defense delivered two key second-half stops including one deep in the red zone in a 13-7 win.

“In the second half, (offensively) we couldn’t close it out, punch it in when we needed to but our defensive line was huge tonight,” Madden said. “We knew they were going to be big coming into tonight and they killed it. Our (defensive backs) stepped up to the challenge.”

On the fourth drive of the game for either team, the Ralston Valley (1-0) punched it in on fourth-and-goal. Senior halfback Brady Weldon found a gap behind his offensive linemen and barreled his way for the score. The extra point was good as Ralston Valley took a 7-0 lead with 2:00 left in the quarter as the Mustangs went eight plays, 64 yards on a two-minute, 16-second drive.

The tempo continued to be set by Ralston Valley as the defense forced another punt. Madden was methodical once again. Early in the second quarter, already having picked up a pair of first downs on the drive, Madden found Liam Beattie, his 7-on-7 teammate from the summer. Beattie received the pass in the middle of the field, stiff-armed a defender and  sprinted 42 yards for the score. The extra point was blocked but Ralston Valley still went eight plays, 65 yards 2:04 to make it 13-0.

Modrzewski threw an interception midway through the quarter but the Mustangs couldn’t turn it into points. He’d be sure to also find his groove later in the quarter.

With 4:45 left in the first half, he was calm in the pocket as he completed six passes on the nine-play drive, including on a fourth-and-three call. Facing a third-and-goal, the Eagles brought out a pitch-and-catch play as running back Carter Daniels found Sean Conway in the end-zone. The extra point was good and it made it 13-7, with 1:30 left in the half. Madden was intercepted in the end zone on his final drive of the half as he looked for a long ball option.

In the third quarter it was the defense that showed up as it turned into a battle of attrition. On the Eagles’ first drive, they managed to get down to the five-yard line, but the Mustangs stepped up and sacked Modrzewski two times on goal-to-goal situations for a loss of 28 yards, which knocked them out of field-goal range.

In the fourth quarter, moving the ball for either side wasn’t a problem, but execution was. With 10:40 left in the game, the Mustangs fumbled at the MVHS 5-yard line. Modrzewski again led his team down the field with a time-consuming drive but had a pass broken up on a fourth-and-goal in the end zone with just over six minutes remaining.

Mustangs’ head coach Jared Yannacito called it a bend-don’t-break mentality and it appeared again and again in the second half.

“I’m really proud of the team because we know we’re playing seven of the top-10 teams (in 5A) and we know we have to have that resilient mindset,” Yannacito said. “We gotta be ready for a battle every single week and Mountain Vista is a very good football team.”

Later on, the Eagles again forced a fourth-and-goal stop from their 7-yard line with 1:40 left, but needing to go 93 yards proved too much. on the very next play, the junior quarterback was intercepted to seal the game.

“My message to the team was, ‘you’re going to get better, nothing we did tonight isn’t fixable,” Eagles head coach Garrett Looney said. “As long as they trust that process, we’re going to be just fine.”

Mountain Vista (0-1) will hit the road to travel to Heritage up next, while the Mustangs will face No. 1 Cherry Creek.

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