CASTLE ROCK — As Mountain Vista trailed early in the second quarter of Friday’s rivalry game against Rock Canyon, Golden Eagles coach Garrett Looney threw down the gauntlet with star quarterback Austyn Modrzewski.
“We might have to score 60 for the win, but I think we can score 70,” Looney challenged Modrzewski and the Mountain Vista wideouts in the huddle on the sideline. “I really do. Now, let’s cut out the mistakes and go do it.”
Modrzewski threw a TD less than a minute later, giving Class 5A No. 9 Mountain Vista its first lead of the night. The Golden Eagles didn’t look back, and neither did Modrzewski, whose play highlighted a 37-14 win over the Jaguars at Douglas County Stadium.
While Mountain Vista struggled early, and tempers flared with an ejection on each team in the first half, Modrzewski stayed calm. His offense averaged 45.3 points per game coming in, and they put on another Air Raid clinic behind Modrzewski’s powerful arm and his slew of talented wideouts.
Even with star senior wideout CJ Reese sidelined due to an ankle injury, and senior do-everything Carter Daniels knocked out in the first quarter with a knee injury, Modrzewski found cracks in Rock Canyon’s defense. One of the state’s top prospects in the Class of 2025 lived up to his recruiting profile, finishing with three TDs and over 250 yards passing. He consistently sliced the secondary with threaded seam passes, well-timed screens dialed up by Looney and numerous deep bombs.
In other words, Modrzewski looked the part of a three-year starter who’s helped transform Mountain Vista into a bona fide Class 5A contender, with more growth yet to go. As a sophomore last year, Modrzewski threw for 3,327 yards, with 34 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. Coming into Friday, he was on a similar statistical tear, with 1,835 yards and 18 TDs to just three picks.
“In his first playoff game as a freshman a couple years ago, he threw six touchdown passes, so we knew we had a pretty special talent from right there,” Looney said. “If he continues to grow at the rate he is, he’s going to be one of the all-timers in Colorado.”
The 6-foot-5 Modrzewski, who demonstrated the ability to elude pressure, scramble and throw on the run against Rock Canyon’s solid defensive front led by senior Chaz Barnett, currently has offers from Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky. He’s hoping to have more Division I offers roll in by his senior year.
In the meantime, his focus is on making Mountain Vista’s fast-paced offense even more efficient. The Golden Eagles never huddle, and push the pace at various tempos throughout the game, mostly out of empty sets.
It’s like the Colorado prep version of Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks from a decade ago (same colors, too) and Modrzewski and Mariota have similar skill sets. Mountain Vista’s favorite run play? Draw. Their second favorite? Modrzewski tucks it and takes off.
“We lack a bit of size up front, so we rely on our conditioning and our tempo to wear out our opponents,” Modrzewski said. “I want to get our offense running even faster, and getting to the line quicker, because then we have a chance to tire out the big teams like Cherry Creek and the rest of the (favorites) down the line. We feel like this offense is already humming, but we want it to really go.”
On Friday, Mountain Vista gift-wrapped Rock Canyon’s first TD by fumbling the opening kickoff, which set the Jaguars up in the red zone. One-yard TD runs by Tyler Meyer and Gavin Neira had the Jaguars up 14-13 after one quarter, but after Looney fired up Modrzewski & Co. on the sideline, the Golden Eagles turned a close game into a rout.
“We started slow, and after the injury to Carter, it took a minute for us to re-gather ourselves,” Looney said. “But our kids responded so well. I knew if we just stayed with it, we would be just fine.”
Jakhai Mack’s five-yard TD reception gave Mountain Vista its first lead at 20-14 with 10:08 left to play in the second quarter. Austin Scheich followed with a pick-six, Sean Conway reeled in a 22-yard TD on a Modrzewski dime down the sideline, and Zach Pickett drilled a 43-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer to make it 37-14.
No one scored in the second half as both defenses settled in, and Mountain Vista’s aerial attack slowed as Looney turned to the run game to burn clock and try to preserve his team’s health following a couple more injuries. Rock Canyon’s secondary, to its credit, also bowed up.
Mountain Vista’s victory over the Jaguars (5-2) is the latest indication they could be a contender deep into November. The Golden Eagles (6-1) lost 13-7 to No. 4 Ralston Valley in Week 0, squeaked out a 35-34 win over Class 4A Heritage in Week 1, and have dominated every team since.
“We had so many opportunities in that Ralston game we squandered,” Looney said. “We had eight drops from our receivers, including two for TDs, and we just didn’t make enough plays to win. That’s frustrating, but it was eye-opening for our group because we didn’t play that well, but we were still right there against a state title-caliber opponent. We’ve shored up the details, and that’s why we’re winning.”
Mountain Vista has No. 10 Castle View, Highlands Ranch and Valor Christian left on the schedule, all games the Golden Eagles will be favored in. If Mountain Vista wins those, they’ll be teed up with a home playoff game in the opening round, with a chance at their first 10-win season since 2006.