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Lewis-Palmer and Palmer Ridge will not continue rivalry in football
A burgeoning football rivalry has died – or has at least been shelved – before its third birthday.
The 2012 schedule does not include the Battle of the Hill, the all-Monument matchup of district rivals Lewis-Palmer and Palmer Ridge. The game was not renewed for reasons as varied as school size and social media.
The showdown was a huge draw both times it was contested, leaving standing room only at Don Breese Stadium – the venue at Lewis-Palmer and shared by both schools. It figured to be a staple on the calendar. But other factors have crept in.
“There are some things that need to be ironed out,” longtime Lewis-Palmer coach Tony Ramunno said. “It’s like the good Lord reached down and said, ‘OK, you’re going to be in different classifications.’
“It’s such a big game. If the upper hand is to the larger school, then we’ll wait until that evens out.”
Palmer Ridge jumped ahead in enrollment (Colorado High School Activities Association figures place Palmer Ridge at 1,123 students and Lewis-Palmer at 925) and grew from 4A to 3A for the upcoming two-year cycle. Ramunno’s Rangers will remain in 3A, so the teams are no longer in the same classification or league.
However, Ramunno’s 2012 schedule does include a pair of nonleague games against 4A teams – Rampart and Sand Creek – so it’s not like he refused to play up under any circumstance.
That’s where social media played a role.
Back-and-forth online bickering between fans of the teams – both students and adults – drew so fierce last year that the coaches had to get involved.
It’s a problem that coaches at many levels are trying to understand and contain. On Thursday, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher banned his players from using Twitter for the remainder of the year.
Ramunno began coaching at Lewis-Palmer in the mid-1980s, decades before Facebook played any role in football. If Ramunno is going to deal with the headaches presented by the rivalry -- particularly in cyberspace -- he wants it played on equal footing.
First-year Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford said the schedule was completed before he was hired to replace Monte Gutowski during the spring. Both Pulford and Gutowski were one-time members of Ramunno’s staff, and Pulford said the game’s suspension had nothing to do with any problem between coaching staffs. Beyond that, he couldn’t fathom why it would go away.
“That’s a good question,” Pulford said.
Gutowski commented on Facebook Thursday, saying: “The game isn’t being played because of other reasons. Bigger than (The Gazette) know(s), or need to know.”
Lewis-Palmer won both games against Palmer Ridge in come-from-behind fashion. The Rangers took the 2010 matchup 25-10 after trailing by 10 points in the first half, robbing the Bears of what would have been a monumental victory in their first varsity season. Lewis-Palmer repeated with a 15-9 victory in 2011, winning on a short run from quarterback Nate Conner early in the fourth quarter.
Ramunno said it is his understanding that Lewis-Palmer School District 38 intends to keep enrollment numbers nearly equal at the two high schools. However, Palmer Ridge – which opened in 2008 on the north side of town – has grown at a faster rate as construction has slowed to the south.
“It just has to even out where there’s not such an underdog,” Ramunno said. “I don’t want to see it not fair. They’ve got some great athletes at Palmer Ridge. Their program is into the 4A world. We’re not growing at Lewis-Palmer.”
ALSO FROM MONUMENT FOOTBALL
MORE SCOTTS ON THE HORIZON
A familiar family at Lewis-Palmer is set to make its mark on a new sport.
Colorado-bound 6-foot-10 center Josh Scott carried the Rangers to the 4A basketball championship last season and Jordan Scott will be looking for a repeat as he enters his senior campaign.
Two of their brothers could have an impact on the football team this season, which shouldn't come as a surprise considering their mother, Theresa, was an Air Force basketball player and their father, Alton, played football at the Academy.
Joseph, a sophomore who also wrestles, could earn a starting nod as an outside linebacker. Jonathan, a freshman who also plays basketball, could force his way onto the varsity as a receiver, where he could provide a tall target for star quarterback Nate Conner.
Coach Tony Ramunno has never played a freshman while at Lewis-Palmer, but he's never had a family like this to draw from, either.
TRAINING CAMP MEMORIES
As NFL training camps open across the country, Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford reflected on his own experience when he was allowed behind the curtain with the Kansas City Chiefs camp as they used his college campus as their training ground.
Pulford was the starting quarterback and a team captain at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, an NCAA Division III program that hosted the Chiefs camp from 1991 to 2009. River Falls players were asked to perform tasks ranging from picking players up from the airport to arranging cones on the practice field.
"I remember when Tony Gonzalez was with the Chiefs and just watching his work ethic," Pulford said. "That really stood out."
Pulford will take over the Palmer Ridge program this fall after serving as defensive coordinator last season. He will continue to call the defense as well as coach the offensive and defensive lines. Shane Momber will take over the offensive coordinator duties that had been handled by previous coach Monte Gutkowski and special teams coach Josh Trahan will continue to serve in the same role.