In the last eight years, St. Mary’s has had just two wins against Pikes Peak region rival Manitou Springs.

And they’ve been outscored 110-7 in their last three meetings with the Mustangs.

But now, the Pirates have put up their best start since 2014 - the last time they defeated Manitou Springs - and look to reverse their losing skid.

“Anytime you’re involved in a rivalry game as a player, a coach or a fan there’s just a special element that’s added when you mention the other team’s name,” said St. Mary’s coach Archie Malloy. “We’re excited and we’re happy where we’re at in the season.”

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St. Mary’s coach Archie Malloy III positions players during practice on Wednesday at the Grace Center. The Pirates have been strong on defense this season.

Last week St. Mary’s got caught in a defensive battle against Jefferson, falling to the Saints 7-5.

“We ended up playing a baseball game,” Malloy joked about the final score. “But I was really happy with our defensive effort. They were averaging 45-50 points per game so holding them to seven points was huge for us.”

Manitou Springs earned a close win against Valley in Week 2, eking out a 31-28 victory, but the Mustangs have found little luck in their other two games. The team has been outscored 98-14 in its two losses, but coach Cory Archuleta said playing those tough teams — like undefeated Salida — helps build the team’s toughness and utilize its strengths.

“I don’t know if it’s in the drinking water in Manitou Springs, but we need to come up with some kind of size. We don’t grow them very big in Manitou but we have learned to utilize our speed when we are outsized,” Archuleta said. “We’re just trying to keep the energy up. We’ve had a couple of tough road trips with Valley and Faith Christian so it will be nice being back in our home stadium.”

The Mustangs will have a fresh face on the field in quarterback Hunter Zentz, who returned last week after a two-game suspension.

“Hunter Zentz is playing well on both sides of the ball last week and Jayden Omi (running back) has run for a few touchdowns and is playing well,” Archuleta said. “We have a couple of kids who have started off with pretty good seasons.”

Manitou Springs does not have stats updated on MaxPreps or Hudl.

Quarterback Sam Baldwin leads the Pirates, averaging 141 passing yards, while Blake Zuniga leads St. Mary’s ground attack with 124 rushing yards.

Sophomore Landon Kane and junior Evan Farber are Baldwin’s top targets with 208 and 174 receiving yards, respectively, but last week juniors Jacob Miller and Andrew Sorensen were brought into the mix to spread out the Pirates attack.

“Our junior class is a pretty strong class,” Malloy said. “We knew we would expect big things from them their junior season and it’s working out well for us so far. And it’s a joy as a coach to be able to spread those guys out and each one goes above and beyond to be successful, so it’s nice to have that next-man-up mentality and have them play out week in and week out.”

But the Pirate defense is what has helped the team achieve its best start in four years, and has not allowed more than 14 points yet this season.

St. Mary’s leads Class 1A in interceptions thanks to last week’s efforts by Jacob Miller and Zuniga who combined for five interceptions against Jefferson.

It’s unclear if the St. Mary’s secondary will have much work this Friday as Archuleta said the team likes to limit their pass plays and utilize their speed.

PIRATES-MUSTANGS AT A GLANCE

Game data: St. Mary’s Pirates (2-1) at Manitou Springs Mustangs (1-2) … Friday at 7 p.m., Manitou Springs High School.

Media: Follow @LindseySquints and @HughJohnson707 on Twitter for live updates throughout the game. Check back with GazettePreps.com for more Game of the Week coverage, including photo galleries and videos sponsored by Pizza Hut.

Teams: Manitou Springs holds an 8-2 edge over St. Mary’s in the Rocky Mountain rivalry dating back to 2010, including three straight wins. The Mustangs have outscored St. Mary’s 110-7 in the team’s last three meetings, but this season the Pirates have had a respectable start to the season, indicating that Friday’s matchup could be a much closer battle.

St. Mary’s is coming off a two-point loss to Jefferson. Although the Pirate offense didn’t find the end zone, the defense held the Saints — who averaged more than 50 points — to one touchdown.

The Mustangs’ two losses came by big margins including a 42-7 loss to Faith Christian last week, and a 56-7 defeat to Salida in the season opener. Manitou Springs earned its first win in a close game against Valley, 31-18.

Manitou Springs does not have stats posted to MaxPreps.

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