Greeley Central enters matchup with Greeley West with a spring in its step | MyWindsorNow.com

Greeley Central enters matchup with Greeley West with a spring in its step

Tommy Wood
twood@greeleytribune.com

— Gary Luster isn't a big moral victory guy, but last Friday, in the second half of Greeley Central's 42-28 loss at No. 6 Broomfield, he found one.

"We got punched in the mouth in the first half," he said.

At halftime, the Wildcats adjusted and came into the third quarter guns blazing. Quarterback Rodolfo Escamilla threw four touchdown passes in the second half, their best offensive output since their season opener.

"The kids felt good about it," Luster said.

That second half gave confidence to a Central team (0-4) that was down on itself after losing big to Northridge and No. 3 Loveland in consecutive weeks. It'll need every bit of it against Greeley West (2-2) on Friday in a homecoming game that won't necessarily be in front of a homecoming crowd. Luster has talked to his team this week about how the crowd will be more partisan than almost any other homecoming, and with the rivalry on top of that, it'll certainly be one of the biggest.

"I think we'll have more fans that we've had at West-Central or homecoming games in a long time," Luster said.

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The Spartans' fans that crowd District 6 Stadium will be clamoring for a win, too.

West is coming off of a 28-7 loss at No. 8 Windsor in which it was shut out in the second half. The Wizards shut down the Spartans' bruising rushing game, holding an attack that averages 277 yards per game to just 83. West's senior running back Darren Delacroix failed to rush for 100 yards for the first time all season.

"We just didn't play very well," Spartans coach Jason Renouf said. "There's a lot we need to fix."

On top of the list are getting Delacroix going again and finding secondary playmakers on offense, which are the first of the three keys to this game:

1 Can West's offense take the pressure off Darren Delacroix?

The first should take care of itself. Delacroix has rushed for 630 yards and nine touchdowns this season on 8.1 yards per carry. Central's defense gave up 279 yards on the ground to Northridge and 461 to Loveland. Stopping Delacroix, or even limiting him, will be a challenge.

"I don't know if anyone can stop Darren," Luster said. "He's maybe the best athlete in this area."

Containing him may be the key to beating West. He's scored all but two of the Spartans' touchdowns and accounted for 53 percent of their yards. At some point, West will need another playmaker.

Sophomore Derek West has rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown on five yards per carry, and junior Alexandro Valverde has 124 yards at 6.4 yards a pop. Either of them could step up behind West's bruising offensive line. The Spartans could also look for offense through the air.

"We need to establish a passing game," Renouf said. "We can't do it all on the ground."

West is just 11-of-22 passing this season for 104 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, and hasn't completed a pass longer than 19 yards.

Not that any of that matters to Central. The Wildcats know that Delacroix will get his, but they won't overlook West's other backs, either.

"Darren gets the accolades, but he does well in their scheme," Luster said. "They have a good scheme. Their offensive line is good."

2 Can Rodolfo Escamilla stay hot?

If West's passing game needs to step up, Central shouldn't have such concerns after Escamilla's four-touchdown, second-half outburst at Broomfield.

His top target is Xavier Bonham, who does just about everything. He's caught 18 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and has intercepted three passes on defense and defended six more. Running backs Jordan Cervantes and Brett Yackey are also good receivers out of the backfield.

"We've spent a lot of time making sure our defense hits their spots" against the Wildcats' air attack, Renouf said.

West's pass defense has really been tested in only one game. It gave up 281 yards to Fort Collins in the Spartans' 33-27 win two weeks ago, as the Lambkins scrambled to recover from a second-half deficit.

In their two losses, West's opponents attempted only six combined passes. So the strength of its pass defense is still relatively unknown, but the one time a team had to air it out against the Spartans, they had some success.

3 What does this game mean to the crosstown rivals?

Renouf won't let his team overlook Central because it's winless. This game is always huge, and that it's Central's homecoming makes it even bigger.

"No, no, no," Renouf said when asked about Central's record. "I don't know what their record is."

Luster said that if the Wildcats got their first win of the season at homecoming against their archrival, it'd be huge for the program. Both teams start conference play next week, and a win here would set them up nicely.

Besides, the Spartans and Wildcats aren't just playing against another team. They're playing against friends, neighbors and coworkers.

"The only time we don't want Greeley West to win is when we play them," Luster said.

Here's a look at the rest of this week's prep football action.

Who: Greeley West Spartans (2-2) at Greeley Central Wildcats (0-4)

What: Class 4A nonconference football; Central’s homecoming

Where: District 6 Stadium, 100 71st Ave.

Last week: West carried a 7-0 lead into halftime at No. 8 Windsor, then the wheels fell off. The Wizards dominated the second half to win 28-7, and they held the Spartans’ dominant rushing game to just 83 yards on 2.7 yards per carry, by far its worst output of the season. Central lost 42-28 at No. 6 Broomfield despite four touchdown passes from quarterback Rodolfo Escamilla.

Who to watch: Greeley West — RB/DB Darren Delacroix, sr. (78 carries, 630 yards., 8.1 yards per carry, 9 TD); RB Derek West, soph. (31 carries, 154 yards, 5 yards per carry, 1 TD); RB Alexandro Valverde, jr. (20 carries, 127 yards, 6.4 yards per carry). Greeley Central — QB Rodolfo Escamilla, jr. (57/111, 657 yards, 51% completions, 5 TD, 3 INT); RB Brett Yackey, jr. (37 carries, 169 yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 2 TD); WR/DB Xavier Bonham, jr. (18 catches, 236 yards, 13.1 yards per reception, 2 TD, 32 tackles, 3 INT, 6 passes defended).

How they rank: Greeley West is receiving nine votes in the CHSAAnow.com poll, good for 13th. Greeley Central is not receiving votes.

Score predictor: USA Today’s High School Football Score Predictor, which calculates results based on season statistics, has West winning 34-14.