It may not be track season yet, but Brandon Cartagena held his own invitational meet Friday night.
The senior scored five touchdowns and helped Vista Ridge run all over Canon City in a 41-7 romp in the first round of the 4A football playoffs.
After losing in the first round of the 3A playoffs last year, the No. 4-seeded Wolves weren’t about to let it happen again.
“Last year we were one-and-done and we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again because we did not want to go through that,” said Cartagena, who ran for 126 yards on 13 carries. “This is just the first step and we’ve got more to go.”
Cartagena, who is also a track star as a solo runner and on relays, scored twice in the first eight minutes of the game on runs of 1 and 28 yards. He would add touchdown runs of 59 and 2 in the second quarter to make it 27-0 at the half.
“Brandon is a great athlete,” Vista Ridge coach Les Johnson said. “The guy has Division I speed and his speed is second to none. The O-line really helped him out tonight by holding their blocks and giving him seams to run through.”
After Vista Ridge scored its fifth touchdown on a 28-yard pass from Brayden Stewart to Aaron Johnson, Cartagena returned a punt 57 yards to set up his fifth scoring run — from 17 yards out.
As dominant as the running game was for Vista Ridge, its defense was just as nasty. The Wolves held No. 13 Canon City to just 119 total yards in the game, and the only touchdown they surrendered was after a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half.
“We watch film every week and try to learn as much as we can and exploit whatever weaknesses we can find,” said Vista Ridge linebacker Jacob Hawthorne, who had 15 tackles and a forced fumble. “Whatever lack of size we have we make up for it with quickness and the fact that we like to hit people.”
Besides watching Cartagena run all over the field, Canon City had to deal with another nightmarish circumstance. On the second offensive series of the game starting quarterback Logan Nethercot was knocked out for the rest of the night with a sprained shoulder.
Although freshman Zach Manchester found Logun Javernick on a 9-yard touchdown pass for the Tigers’ only points, he struggled against the veteran Vista Ridge defense.
Vista Ridge will now host No. 5 Monarch — which beat Falcon 24-14 Friday night — in the state quarterfinals. Cartagena is ready for the challenge of facing a defense that has given up less than 10 points per game this season.
“That’s a good team we’re going to face, but I have faith in my team that we will take care of business,” he said.