Most people would not expect a low-scoring, defensive affair between teams that have scored a combined 227 points in the past two weeks.
But Rampart quarterback Keion Cross knew it was going to be a dogfight between his Rams and the Vista Ridge Wolves in the regular-season finale.
Fortunately for Cross and the rest of his senior class, Rampart's defense stepped up to hold Jaylen Thomas and the powerful Vista Ridge offense to eke out a 14-7 win and clinch the Rams' second straight 4A Pikes Peak title.
Vista Ridge opened the scoring early Friday, with a 32-yard pass to Jeffrey Crittendon midway through the first quarter. With a maneuver out of pressure and easy lob up the middle, it looked like Thomas was going to have no trouble working down the field against the Rampart defense, but the Rams' defense was not going to let a second league title slip that easily.
Junior Jake Pavlica created two timely turnovers with a forced fumble in the first, and an interception to lead off the second half. And although the Rams did not capitalize on either turnover, those takeaways forced a major momentum switch in Rampart's favor.
"We knew it was going to be a grind so we settled down into it and played our game," Cross said, "Our defense came up big. We couldn't really get anything going on offense, but we just kept pushing and the defense made some huge turnovers and stops, so we are really proud of them."
Late in the first quarter the Wolves faked a punt, but the long pass was intercepted by Rampart, setting the Rams (8-2, 5-0) up on the Vista Ridge 45. And after Rampart's biggest gain of the first half, the Rams were settled in the red zone at the start of the second quarter. Ethan Spendlove pushed in a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal to tie the game in the second.
"This type of game when you can get a touchdown like that with the way our defense is playing, that's a huge touchdown for us," Rampart coach Rob Royer said.
Spendlove later scored the game-winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a similar 1-yard drive, set up by a blocked punt by Seth Sheppard.
"We knew this was going to be a game where you have to battle through the first and the second and come out and answer the bell in the third and the fourth and try to win the thing in the end," Royer said.
His defense stood up in the fourth quarter, thwarting any Vista Ridge (6-4, 3-2) attempts to tie it up.
"You have to take everyone seriously on that team so we had to keep our head on straight," Pavlica said. "I think our team did really well at holding them down, and I just wanted to see the seniors move on to a first-round playoff game and I knew that was possible with everyone working hard."
Rampart will move on to host a first-round playoff game next week. Postseason brackets will be released Sunday.