Prep Showcase: Monarch versus Ralston Valley

Monarch was 10-1 last year, losing in the first round of the 4A state playoffs. They start the season ranked #1 in the <i>Denver Post</i> and #2 in the <i>Rocky Mountain News</i>. Ralston Valley was 11-1 last season, advancing to the quarterfinals of the 4A state playoffs. They start the season ranked #5 by the Post and #8 by the RMN. The two teams met Thursday night in NAAC stadium. There were a handful of D1 prospects littering the field. Here is the full recap of the action.

The Game

What a way to open the season! These two perennial 4A powers matched up tonight in an early season battle of preseason top-10 ranked teams. Monarch lost a number of key starters off last year's squad, including Dan Gury(CSU) and Chris Kuwalok(CSU). Ralston Valley returned only four starters and looked to replace do-everything star Joe Fletcher(Wyoming).

Monarch received the opening kickoff and quickly went three and out. Ralston Valley took control and marched from their own 43-yard with ease, eventually scoring on a 6-yard run. The Mustangs were on top 7-0. Monarch responded on the ensuing drive, as super-Junior Wade Landowski reeled off a 60-yard run, taking the ball to the Ralston Valley 20 yard line. Monarch then did something they don't do very often: they scored on a pass play. Quarterback Graham Boswell threw a perfect 22-yard strike to Nick Weber, who made a beautiful catch in the end zone. The score was tied 7-7.

The Monarch defense stepped up on the next possession, forcing Ralston Valley to punt. The Coyotes took the ensuing drive from their own 47-yard line and put together an impressive drive, capped by a 40-yard touchdown run by Landowski. Ralston Valley wasn't about to go away, though, as Clayton Gammon busted a 67-yard run on the Mustangs next possession, leading to a 3-yard touchdown run by Gammon later in the drive. With the score tied 14-14, Monarch went on one of their textbook run, run, run drives. Run right, run left, run middle. Fullback David Beaver punched the ball in from the one yard line to give Monarch a 21-14 lead. The teams would go into halftime with the Coyotes leading by 7.

The second half was all Monarch. The Coyote defense forced a fumble on the Ralston Valley opening drive. Monarch took control of the ball on the Mustang 37-yard line. During this drive, Monarch had a crucial fourth and four which was converted thanks to a great run by Nick Weber. Monarch continued to drive and put another touchdown on the board courtesy of a 27 yard run by Beaver.

With Monarch leading 27-14, the game looked like it might get out of hand. Monarch stopped Ralston Valley and forced another Mustang punt. The Coyotes' drive stalled and they faced another fourth down attempt at their own 43-yard line. This time the Mustangs stopped the Monarch offense. Ralston Valley took over the ball with a chance to get back in the game. They put together a nice drive, moving the ball to the Monarch 15-yard line. With Ralston Valley threatening to make this a contest, the Coyote defense made a great stop, intercepting a Gammon pass in the end zone. Monarch went three and out, but a nice punt by Sam Barajas pushed the Mustangs deep into their own territory. Monarch intercepted another pass, which eventually lead to an 11-yard touchdown run Wade Landwoski. Monarch would go ahead 33-14, and maintain that lead throughout the remainder of the game. As the buzzer sounded, Monarch celebrated an extremely impressive 19-point win to open the season.

The Prospects

There were a number of impressive prospects on the field this evening, including defensive standout Matt Kawulok. Kawulok had an absolutely dominating game. It is frequently said that a solid cornerback can cut off half the field. Tonight, from the defensive line and linebacker positions, Matt Kawulok cut off half the field. Plays that were run to his side of the field were plays that went nowhere. Kawulok looked extremely impressive in my opinion. He showed great speed, he showed tremendous pursuit ability, he showed tremendous tackling skills. There was one point in the second half when Ralston had the ball and Matt completely took over the game. First play, Matt showed tremendous speed and sacked the quarterback. Second play, Ralston Valley attempted a pass, Matt jumped in the air and batted down the pass attempt. Third play, Ralston Valley threw a short pass to a receiver, Matt was there to immediately make the tackle. A sack, a batted ball and a tackle on consecutive plays. The thing is, Matt played like this all night, not just this one series. Kawulok currently has an offer from Colorado State. With performances like the one he had tonight, Matt is going to be seeing quite a few more offers come his way. Matt is currently rated as a 2-star prospect. Anyone who watched the game tonight would agree that he's extremely underrated.

Another Monarch Senior receiving recruiting attention is running back Nick Weber. Weber and his backfield partner Wade Landowski make up arguably the top running back duo in the state. Weber rushed 15 times for 60 yards this evening and had a spectacular 22 yard catch for a touchdown. Weber is a solid runner. He's fast, on sweeps he gets to the outside before the defenders can even react. He can also make power runs right up the middle. On the fourth and four referenced earlier, Weber run hard up the middle, got hit before the first down marker, but kept his feet moving and pulled a defender with him as he gained the first down. Nick also has great field vision, following his blocks and hitting the holes as soon as they open up. Whether it be at running back, or another position, Nick Weber has the ability to play at the next level. He currently holds an offer from Air Force. He'll have plenty more offers coming his way.

Monarch Junior Wade Landowski will likely be one of the top 5 players in the state of Colorado next season. Besides Aubrey Quarles, the receiver at Grandview, I can't think of a Junior who has as much talent and skill as Wade Landowski. Wade has been playing varsity since his Freshman season. Tonight, he looked spectacular. Wade rushed 19 times for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Wade is just a special kind of athlete. He's extremely fast and liable to break a special teams play or run from scrimmage at any time. He's one of those unique players who has the potential to change a game every time he touches the ball. We'll be hearing a lot about Landowski next recruiting cycle. On his four-yard TD run in the second quarter, Wade was hit at the line of the scrimmage, bounced off the tackler, spun, and proceeded to drag another defender into the endzone with him. As I wrote in my notes "bounce, spin, drag". With the talent he possesses, we'll be hearing quite a bit about this super talent from here on out.

Some other players who really caught my attention include: Monarch LB/FB David Beaver. On the defensive side of the ball, Beaver had a great second half. He jammed the middle from his LB position and looked impressive in his pursuit. He also had a great evening at FB, rambling in for two scores and rushing for 41 yards; Monarch has a do-everything player in Sam Barajas. Barajas has the attitude you love to see on the football field. He'll do all he can, throw his body around as need be to make a play. When Ralston Valley ran the option to Sam's side, he'd basically throw himself at the lead blocker, completely taking him out of the play. Sam also plays guard and punter. The guy is basically never off the field!; Ralston Valley has a young team, but a player who really stood out was lineman Randy Greenbaum. Greenbaum played both ways, starting at center and DT. He was very impressive from the center position, clearing holes and showing nice agility. At defensive tackle, the expression "he takes up the middle" applied to Randy. With his size (6'4,270) Greenbaum is definitely a player who is going to get some D1 looks.

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