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Playoff newcomer Vista Ridge not shy about championship goals
As it prepares for the first playoff game in school history, Vista Ridge already carries an unmistakable swagger.
The Wolves aren’t talking about being happy to be in the 3A football state playoffs, they are talking about their goal of winning a state title – this season.
“We’re looking for the state championship as all teams are, but we believe we can beat every single team in the playoffs,” said quarterback Thomas Newman, who has thrown for 879 yards and six touchdowns and run for 346 yards and two scores.
Pretty high expectations for a school that didn’t even exist three years ago and won't graduate its first senior class until the spring.
“We always started out with this goal, we didn’t care where we were in the playoffs, but we believe we’re going to go a distance,” Vista Ridge coach and team architect Dean Huffman said.
Huffman has good reason to be optimistic about his team's chances in the playoffs. The Wolves are seeded No. 5 and host No. 12 Evergreen at Sand Creek at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Vista Ridge went 8-2 in the regular season, with its only losses against 4A Falcon and a team from Florida. Against 3A competition the Wolves are 7-0 with a 273-58 margin.
“We believe we can score 40 points on any team out in 3A right now,” Newman said.
Critics have called upon the fact that Vista Ridge ran the table in what may be the weakest 3A conference in the state. The other seven teams in the 3A Southern Conference combined to go 25-41 this season.
Running back Tyree Walker, the Wolves’ main offensive weapon, has a message for those skeptical of Vista Ridge’s chances.
“Don’t underestimate us," said Walker, who has rushed for 1,176 yards and 16 touchdowns. "We may have come from a conference that’s not as strong, but we dominated that conference and we look to make some noise in the playoffs.”
Not overlooked is the Vista Ridge defense, which has allowed 14.7 points per game this season.
Senior linebacker Brandon Drager is one of the main reasons for the stout defense. He leads the team with 88 tackles and four sacks as well as two defensive touchdowns.
“We watch film before every practice, and we study what the running backs are doing and what the receivers are doing and basically shut them down,” said Drager, who has been in the Wolves’ football program since it started by playing a freshman schedule three years ago and a junior varsity schedule over the past two years.
Now the building process seems complete for Vista Ridge, and Huffman attributes the success to his players’ work ethic.
“We’ve outworked anybody by miles," Huffman said. "We’ve never shut down football and we only have three weeks a year when we don’t have weights. It’s unbelievable, it’s kind of a dream time right now and it’s been very exciting because everything we’ve wanted to happen has folded together.”