Rampart High School football coach Rob Royer remembers the game with District 20 rival Air Academy being a big one back when he was playing for the Rams.
That hasn’t exactly been the case lately with the schools not playing the last two seasons and Air Academy looking to leave behind a decade where it had as many winless seasons (2010, 2013) as it did winning ones (2008, 2017).
The rivalry could be reignited at 7 p.m. Friday at District 20 Stadium in The Gazette Preps Game of the Week.
The Rams and Kadets sport matching 6-2 records. Rampart enters 3-0 in league play, winning each contest by at least 34 points, while Air Academy is 2-1 in conference after last week’s loss to the only other unbeaten team in the 4A Pikes Peak, Pueblo West.
More importantly, the Rams and Kadets are No. 18 and 19, respectively, in the Colorado High School Activities Association’s latest RPI ranking where the top 16 make the playoffs, effectively making Friday’s game a must-win for both.
“We’re in playoff mode right now,” Royer said. “Because of the RPI, every game is a playoff for us.”
“I really believe if we can win this one, we’ve got a chance to get in,” third-year Air Academy coach Scott Grinde said.
“I’m treating this as a playoff game.”
A win would give Air Academy its first seven-win season since the 10-2 Kadet squad from 2007.
Grinde has already secured the program’s first back-to-back winning seasons since the 2007-08 campaigns.
“He’s done a great job over there kinda giving them a shot in the arm,” Royer said of Friday’s counterpart.
It’s all a step in the right direction, but Grinde hopes his team hasn’t reached its destination.
“I don’t want our program to think that’s good enough,” the Kadet coach said.
”We’ve got to keep climbing.”
Friday’s game could come down to Air Academy’s ability to slow Rampart’s ground game. Chris Yoo, the Rams’ junior running back, has 954 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns with an average of 7 yards per carry. Two other Rams, quarterback Cale Cormaney and running back Colin Phillips, have at least 430 yards on the season. Each of the six Rams with more than 10 carries averages at least 6.3 yards per run.
“Honestly, it’s our offensive line,” Royer said. “Their attention to detail has been outstanding.”
The Kadets will need to be sharp defensively after issues tackling and losing leverage played into last week’s 42-0 loss.
“We can’t do those same things this week or we’ll be in trouble,” Grinde said.
“They (Rampart) really will big play you to death on offense, if you’re not sound.”
The Kadets’ offense has found success in a balanced, senior-led attack.
Senior Kyle Pope’s 899 yards and eight touchdowns leads the ground game, while Zach and Ethan Martin both have over 200 yards.
Quarterback Bo Powers, another senior, has 10 touchdowns against two interceptions with three of those scores, including a 75-yarder, going to classmate Brady Badwound.
With Rampart set to travel to Pueblo West next week, possibly for a league championship, and Air Academy needing a win to potentially force a three-way tie atop the standings, the district rivalry is once again highly anticipated at both schools.
“No question about it, it’s the biggest game we’ve had in our three-year tenure,” Grinde said. “We’re excited about it.”
“Should be a little chill in the air, a good ol’ District 20 rivalry,” Royer said. “We’re excited.”