UPDATE: Due to a COVID-19 exposure on the Pueblo West football team, the Game of the Week has been suspended as the Cyclones quarantine.
It’s not often you find a high school team that effectively passes for more than 380 yards per game. In fact, you’ll find just two in the state of Colorado — Longmont and Vista Ridge.
“Nobody we are going to face has seen a team quite like us,” said Vista Ridge coach Jason Cauley.
Vista Ridge is banking on that as the Wolves host Pueblo West on Friday in a 4A Southern clash.
The Cyclones, coming off a loss to Fountain-Fort Carson last week, will face their first big test against an air-raid offense led by sophomore quarterback Brayden Dorman.
Pueblo West hasn’t faced an offense that put up more than 122 yards passing yet this season, and presents a run-heavy offense averaging 316 rushing yards, spread between two running backs and quarterback Cole Brinkley.
Following Week 2 and 3 matchups against Fountain-Fort Carson and Rampart, Vista Ridge has experience facing a similar schemes, specifically comparing Brinkley’s talent to Rampart’s Cale Cormaney.
“We know (Brinkley) is going to make plays, but we have a don’t break defensive mentality and we have confidence in our defense to make the stop,” Cauley said, adding that his team "learned to take a punch" in a loss to Fountain-Fort Carson and an overtime win over Rampart. “Our kids took the punch, got knocked down and learned how to get back up and fight. That gave us a little bit of confidence.”
On the offensive side, what you see is what you get. Led by Dorman, who leads the state in passing yards and touchdowns, 93 percent of the Wolves’ offense comes from the passing game and Dorman’s connection with top receivers Keyon Burris and BB Hills.
The duo rank second and third in the state, respectively, with 539 and 519 receiving yards, though Cauley said each brings a unique advantage to the Wolves’ offense.
Cauley describes Hills as a fast, versatile threat who uses his track and field experience to hurdle and jump to make plays, and speed to burn defenders deep.
Burris is the total package, according to Cauley.
“He is the difference maker. Every time he touches the field he is the best athlete out there every Friday night,” Cauley said. “His football intelligence, matched with his athletic ability, hands and physicality, he has the potential to score every time he catches the ball. He will run over you, around you, stiff arm you to the ground, whatever he has to do to get into the end zone."
To get the ball in their hands, though, Vista Ridge will need to focus on protecting Dorman, who has been sacked 18 times this season.
Vista Ridge replaced five starters on the offensive line in the offseason, and a few weeks ago adjusted to the air-raid offense to hand the reins to Dorman.
“That’s what’s great about having a quarterback like Brayden,” Cauley said. “He can call his own protection, and we didn’t have that earlier in the year and that helps us.”
Their biggest focus will be to stop senior Lukas Moran.
“That kid is the real deal. He can play, he is fast and aggressive and is going to cause a lot of problems off the edge,” Cauley said.
Brinkley has 274 rushing yards and six touchdowns and has passed for 390 and four touchdowns. The junior had three interceptions last week against Fountain-Fort Carson, but also had his best passing game of the year with 170 yards.
Jeremiah Sanchez leads the Cyclones with 389 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Hunter Johnson has 358 rushing and three touchdowns.
Though Pueblo West averages fewer than 100 passing yards per game, Joe Gallery leads reception yards with 120 on six catches, including a touchdown. Junior Ethan Crapeau has 105 reception yards.
CYCLONES-WOLVES AT A GLANCE
Game data: Pueblo West Cyclones (3-1, 2-1 4A Southern) vs. Vista Ridge (3-1, 2-1 4A Southern) … 6 p.m. Friday at Vista Ridge High School.
Media: Follow @LindseySquints on Twitter for live updates throughout the game, and check Gazette Preps for a photo gallery, story and highlight video, delivered by Pizza Hut.
COVID-19 guidelines: Ticket distribution will be prioritized to families of participating athletes through the athletic department. Tickets will not be sold at the gate. A livestream of the game may be made available.