ThunderRidge plays rival Mountain Vista Oct. 25 in the Continental League regular-season finale.
The Grizzlies improved to 7-1 on the season and 3-1 in the league with a 52-14 romp over Chaparral Oct. 17 at Shea Stadium, but ThunderRidge coach Joe Johnson stressed that his team needs to better itself as the state Class 5A playoffs approach.
“There are a lot of things we can do better and execute better,” said Johnson. “We need to be more consistent defensively. We just kind of have bad series sometimes and things like that defensively.
“We just can't get complacent and we can't think we don't need to get better. The teams that get better are the teams that are going to win. If you are not getting better and somebody else is, you are getting worse. So we have to keep getting better and keep wanting to play. We have a lot of seniors who want to play as long as they can play.”
Senior wide receiver Mark Hopper knows what ThunderRidge, a team that advanced to the semifinals last season, needs to do.
“We just have to practice hard, keep focused and we can't overlook one team,” advised Hopper. “We just have to keep practicing, that's all we can do. We play Mountain Vista next, which is our biggest rival.”
ThunderRidge, the state's fifth-ranked Class 5A team, played precise in defeating an injury-plagued Chaparral team that lost for the fifth time in eight games and dropped to 2-2 in league play.
The Grizzlies broke a 7-7 first-period tie with 45 unanswered points, and the 40-point mercy rule with a running clock was started with 11:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.
ThunderRidge scored on eight of 10 possessions, and one of those drives came when kneeling on the ball at the end of the game. The Grizzlies converted three turnovers into 21 points and finished with 435 yards total offense while limiting the Wolverines to 77 yards rushing and 168 total offense yards.
It was a team effort as several players had standout games.
Quarterback Brody Westmoreland completed 11 of 18 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. He ran for 30 yards and another score.
Steve Ray, who was suspended for the season's first four games, rushed for three touchdowns and 112 yards. Fullback Matt Stanley added 39 yards rushing and a TD.
Hopper caught six passes for 95 yards, kicked a 35-yard field goal and converted seven extra-point kicks. Josh Brown rushed for 44 yards on three carries and caught three passes for 45 yards and a TD.
Senior linebacker Tyler Seno had eight tackles and recovered two fumbles to pace the ThunderRidge defense. Michael Stanley, Matt's brother, had two quarterback sacks.
“Tyler is playing very well,” said Johnson. “He's a very good athlete. We try not to be too one-dimensional on offense. We have several guys that can run it. Matt gives us a power inside look and he's really good at that. Steve gives us a little more speed and movement outside. Brody can run and we've got guys that can catch it.
“We didn't have Brownie there for a few weeks. He dislocated his thumb. He's somebody that I still don't think we've seen what he is capable of doing. He's fast. He can hurt you. We're going to try to use him more and be as balanced as we can.”
Hopper echoed the comments of his coach.
“We have many different players,” he said. “We have Brody Westmoreland, Steve Ray and our offensive line is unbelievable. We can do anything we want. We can throw, we can run and we can pass.”
Chaparral, which has had seven starters sidelined by injury, is trying to stick to the basics of passing, running and tackling in what has been a rough season.
“No excuses,” said Wolverines coach John Vogt. “We are just trying to play fundamental and to play our game.”
Chaparral junior quarterback Cole Lehman completed five of 14 passes for 91 yards. Brandon Matt led the Wolverines ground attack with 54 yards on seven totes and scored on a 23-yard run.
In other Continental League action, Trey Smith ran for 118 yards and scored three times in Douglas County's 44-41 triumph over Highlands Ranch. Mountain Vista mustered just five yards rushing and 162 total yards of offense in a 56-0 loss to league-leading Regis Jesuit.