Football: Rangeview navigates large field to win Hog Wars for 9th time

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Rangeview’s Clinton Thomas, left, and Dylan Graham dig in during the tug-o-war event at the 2016 Hog Wars competition. The Raiders won the event and captured the program’s ninth team championship in the 12 year history of the competition. Rangeview racked up 89 points to finish in front of newcomer Mullen, while Cherokee Trail and Eaglecrest tied for third in a 16-team field. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | No matter who is in the trenches for the Rangeview football team, the first goal is always to keep the Hog Wars trophy in house.

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From left, Rangeview’s Clinton Thomas, Kameron Reed, Jace Lester, Frank Vargas, Dylan Graham and Alex Frogoso pose with the Hog Wars trophy they won on July 13, 2016, at Rangeview High School. The Raiders won the title of the event with 89 points. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Another fresh group of Raiders’ “Hogs” set out to defend the program’s tradition in the 12-year-old strength and teamwork competition — created by former coach Dave Gonzales – and they retained custody of the trophy for the second straight season and ninth time overall.

Against a field that swelled to 16 teams after just seven participated last season, Rangeview’s top team of seniors Clinton Thomas, Jace Lester and Frank Vargas and junior Dylan Graham, Alex Fragoso and Kameron Reed took first in four of the six events, capped by a win over a tough Smoky Hill team in the tug-o-war finals to finished with a winning score of 89 points.

“It’s certainly nice to win it anytime, but especially when we expanded it and we have some traditional powerhouses like Cherokee Trail and Grandview,” Rangeview coach Justin Hoffman said. “It was gratifying to watch our team compete. I can’t say I expected us to win, but I think this is big and it’s a reflection of the way we compete in practice.

“We go hard every day, whether it is explosive training or sprints or whatever we are doing. We say that you need to finish every drill and the way our guys finish, they are never out of it.”

Mullen — one of four non-Aurora teams in the field, including Arapahoe, Denver East and Rock Canyon — finished second with 80 points, followed by a tie for third between Eaglecrest and Cherokee Trail at 74 apiece.

Aside from the new teams that pumped some different energy into an event that had been an all-Aurora event, the competition was its typical chance for often overshadowed linemen to earn their due during a summer that is heavy with 7-on-7 competitions for skill players.

The Raiders — who have a slight edge with practicing the events on their home field — finished atop the field in the 125-pound “log” press, the fireman’s carry, the truck push (a roughly 30,000-pound Aurora Police “BEAR” S.W.A.T. vehicle) and the tug-o-war.

Rangeview won the competition without one of its smartest and most physical competitors, senior Onyi Ozoma, who was out of town.

“This was our year and we worked extra hard to come out with the win,” Lester said. “We might not have been expecting it, but favor fell our way and we put the work in to win.”

While five of the six events were basically individual teams against weights or a vehicle for distance or speed, the tug-o-war brought out the fire in everybody as the only 1-on-1 competition, which in a way resembles battles along the line.

“It was definitely the most hype; there was a lot of yelling,” said Graham, Rangeview’s anchor.

The Raiders were on the verge of losing in one of the early rounds, but rallied to make it all the way to the final, where they finally outlasted Smoky Hill in an extended battle.

Buffs coach John Trahan, who was at Hog Wars for the first time, was pleased to see his team of Ryan Campbell, Tyler Greco, Ricky Sisk, Stefon Bennett, Malcolm Bennett and Chris Noel hold their own in head-to-head competition.

“We love all the things they do here, but the bottom line is the tug-o-war is 1-on-1 and it shows heart and determination,” Trahan said. “I was very excited for the guys and how they put it out there.”

Smoky Hill finished third in Heritage’s lineman competition and came in a close sixth at Hog Wars, giving all involved reason for optimism for the upcoming season.

Campbell, Greco, Sisk and Stefon Bennett return from last season’s line and Noel also saw some time, while Malcom Bennett has been welcomed in after moving in from Wisconsin.

“We’re definitely coming back bigger this year,” Campbell said. “We did well today, we just need to learn how to finish. We’re still learning, but we’re getting there.”

Eaglecrest’s skill players have continued to shine this summer in 7-on-7 competition — the Raptors won the Denver Broncos’ 7-on-7 tournament for a second straight season — but coach Mike Schmitt has plenty in the trenches as well.

Led by Bear Miller, the Raptors finished second in the truck push and placed in the top five of four of the six events to deadlock with a Cherokee Trail team paced by Ruben Estrada and Spencer Cain.

Grandview returned to Hog Wars after a few years’ absence and coach John Schultz’s group flexed its muscles by winning the “log” press and finishing second in the monster truck tire flip relay, which helped the Wolves finish four points ahead of Smoky Hill for fifth place.

Coach Seth Replogle’s Overland team graduated quite a bit along the line, but a mostly new group of faces managed to rack up 50 points to put them 10th, while coach Shane Ward watched his Gateway group (including returners Kenneth Quinie and O’Shea Wright) collected 40 to finish 11th.

With new head coach Michael Farda overseeing the proceedings, Hinkley had its primary success in the tug-0-war, but finished 16th with a total of 17 points.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

12TH ANNUAL HOG WARS COMPETITION

July 13 at Rangeview High School

Team scores: 1. RANGEVIEW A 89 points; 2. Mullen A 80; T3. EAGLECREST 74; T3. CHEROKEE TRAIL 74; 5. GRANDVIEW 69; 6. SMOKY HILL 65; 7. Rock Canyon 56; 8. Arapahoe 53; 9. Mullen B 51; 10. OVERLAND A 50; 11. GATEWAY A 40; 12. OVERLAND B 35; 13. GATEWAY B 33; 14. Denver East 23; 15. RANGEVIEW B 21; 16. HINKLEY 17