AURORA | Arsean Wilbon had no idea the workload that was in store for him Saturday, but he was more than satisfied when it was finished.
With workhorse Izaiah Lottie sitting out the game as a precaution as he recovers from a minor injury, the Cougars fed Wilbon with 26 of their 67 rushing attempts on the day and the senior running back used them to pile up 250 yards and four touchdowns to help his team survive a physical all-Aurora battle with Rangeview at sun-baked Aurora Public Schools Stadium.
Senior Kyree Herron also carried the ball 31 times for 157 yards and a touchdown for Cherokee Trail, which racked up 431 yards rushing on the day — most of them behind the veteran left side of the offensive line including veterans Ashton Torres, Oreva Koka and Nick Leisge — in a 34-20 victory over the feisty Raiders. Coach Monte Thelen’s Cougars, ranked No. 7 in the latest Class 5A Associated Press football poll, improved to 3-1 ahead of the start of Centennial League play.
“I’m feeling fine; a little drained, but I feel good,” said Wilbon, who had just two carries for 23 yards in Cherokee Trail’s first three games, mostly due to Lottie carrying the ball 69 times for 465 yards.
“Coach just told us that be looking for your opportunity and when you get in, just do your thing,” he added. “I tried to capitalize on that. My offensive line did a great job opening holes for me and I tried to make something out of whatever they gave me. …We have the guys, we all just need to step up when their time comes and we’ll be fine.”
Senior quarterback Quaid Vincent rushed for a touchdown and threw for one and DeVante’ Wheaten returned a punt 75 yards for a score for coach Dave Gonzales’ Rangeview team, which dropped to 2-2. The Raiders opened South Metro League play a week earlier with a 42-0 rout at Grand Junction.
Thelen — whose team rebounded from a 27-7 loss to Regis Jesuit nine days earlier in sloppy conditions — came away pleased with a victory against his former team, especially with the ability to run the ball effectively.
“Let’s give a ton of credit to Rangeview; this was a competitive game, it was hard-fought and they made a number of plays,” he said. “We thought the guys we rotated in the backfield would do a good job. They’re hammers, they’re physical and they can get up in there. Let’s credit our offensive line, which probably wore our opponent out a little bit.”
Wilbon made his impression felt right away, capping Cherokee Trail’s second possession with a 54-yard tackle-breaking sprint to the end zone.
Rangeview pinned the Cougars deep on their next possession and capitalized on a shanked punt that traveled just four yard with a four-play touchdown drive. Elijah Reed hauled in an 9-yard fade from Vincent in the corner of the end zone on the first play of the second quarter to put the Raiders on the board, though they missed the extra point.
Following Kane Vigil’s interception of Cherokee Trail starter Conner Nantkes, Rangeview took a 13-7 lead on a two-play drive that saw Vincent elude a wave of tacklers and tightrope the left sideline on his way to a 42-yard touchdown.
Wilbon put the Cougars back in front with a 3 yard touchdown to cap an 80-yard series.
A pivotal sequence in the one-point game came with under two minutes left in the first half when Rangeview’s Larry Reed didn’t see Cherokee Trail punt returner Jason Thompson signal for a fair catch.
Pinned at their own 10, Thelen said the Cougars likely would have just tried to run out the clock on the half, but with the improved field position, they decided to attack. A 48-yard run by Wilbon sparked a drive that saw Herron carry the ball on six straight plays, the last resulting in a 1-yard touchdown and a 21-13 lead the break.
“Arsean made a nice run on it and we were able to put it in before halftime,” Thelen said. “That was a big sequence.”
Wheaten’s nifty 75-yard punt return score — aided by a massive block on Cherokee Trail punter Ryan Sullivan by Rangeview’s Boaz Powell — made it a one-point game against at 21-20 early in the third quarter.
Both teams’ defenses stiffened the rest of the quarter until Wilbon got free for yet another big gainer — a 54-yard sprint — that he cashed in one play later for a 4-yard touchdown. A missed extra point left it a 27-20, but the Raiders failed to even reach midfield in their attempt to get the tying score.
Rangeview turned the ball over on downs at its own 23 and Wilbon sealed the result with a 6-yard run.
“I felt good about how we played, but we had our opportunities and you have to make them count,” said Gonzales, noting that Cherokee Trail’s outstanding play on the defensive line stood out as a big difference in the game.
“There are a lot of ifs, ands and buts with this one, but we didn’t make our chances count,” he added.
Cherokee Trail is set to open Centennial League play at Cherry Creek at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26, while Rangeview returns to South Metro League action against Hinkley at 6 p.m. Sept. 26 at APS Stadium.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel. IG: Auroraprepsentinel
(7) CHEROKEE TRAIL 34, RANGEVIEW 20
Score by quarters:
Cher. Trail 7 14 6 7 — 34
Rangeview 0 13 7 0 — 20
Cherokee Trail — Arsean Wilbon 54 yard run (Ryan Sullivan kick), 4:36
Rangeview — Elijah Reed 9 yard pass from Quaid Vincent (kick failed), 11:15
Rangeview — Vincent 42 yard run (Taylor Thompson kick), 7:28
Cherokee Trail — Wilbon 3 yard run (Sullivan kick), 4:03
Cherokee Trail — Kyree Herron 1 yard run (Sullivan kick), 0:32
Rangeview — DeVante’ Wheaten 75 yard punt return (Thompson kick), 10:05
Cherokee Trail — Wilbon 4 yard run (kick blocked), 0:39
Cherokee Trail — Wilbon 6 yard run (Sullivan kick), 1:18
Cherokee Trail: Arsean Wilbon 26-250, Kyree Herron 31-157, Quincey Voss 5-23, KJ Sapp 2-11, Blake Butler 1-3, Conner Nantkes 2-(minus 13)
Rangeview: Quaid Vincent 14-27, Arealous Hughes 1-18, Max Gonzales 13-16, Sam Maes 2-5
Cherokee Trail: Butler 1-2, 10 yards; Nantkes 1-8, 8 yards, 1 interception
Rangeview: Vincent 10-21, 123 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
Cherokee Trail: Kamal Howard 1-10, Jason Thompson 1-8
Rangeview: Hughes 3-53, Elijah Blake 3-47, Elijah Reed 3-12, Gonzales 1-11