Chatfield beats Dakota Ridge in Jeffco rivalry so good it needs a name, and a trophy

LAKEWOOD — Chatfield and Dakota Ridge’s cross-classification Jeffco rivalry lived up to the hype. Now, the game just needs a name — and a trophy.

West Littleton Foothills Showdown? Charger-Eagle Bowl? The Coal Mine Clash, and the winner gets a golden pickaxe? Both programs put on a showing worth of such branding on Friday, when Jake Jones’ three TD passes to Drew Rohlman catalyzed Chatfield’s 45-21 victory at Jeffco Stadium.

“There’s a lot of respect between us, but getting a win against these guys means everything,” Rohlman said. “Two years ago, we played Dakota Ridge twice, they beat us in the regular season and then we got them back in the playoffs on our way to the state title. There’s a lot of juice in his game. It’s fun.”

The rivalry, which is already scheduled for the next two seasons, is an important community draw for the two schools that are about a mile apart as the crow flies. And on Friday, it was a drama of contrasts between the consistently solid Jeffco programs.

No. 10 Chatfield, in its second season back in Class 5A, is under relatively new management with second-year coach Kris Rosholt. An All-American punter and three-time national champion at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Rosholt ended up coaching high school football because of the influences of his dad and brother, both of whom coached high school in Wisconsin.

Rosholt’s father, Paul, was a renowned coach in Rosholt’s hometown before passing away from cancer when Rosholt was eight years old. But the memories of his dad coaching from when he was a ball boy still burn bright for the Chatfield boss.

“I just remember at young age, being at practices and games and seeing the impact (my dad) had on kids on a daily basis,” Rosholt said. “I saw how he demanded the most out of kids, but the kids would joke around with him, he’d joke around with them. You could see that mutual love and respect between them, and I noticed that on the sideline.

“(My dad’s memory and) seeing the success my older brother had coaching is motivation, because I know that this is the Rosholt thing to do. I try to be the same coach my dad was, and my brother is.”

Meanwhile, on the other sideline, Class 4A No. 5 Dakota Ridge has one of the longest-tenured head football coaches in Colorado in Ron Woitalewicz. The Eagles original is in his 23rd year as the team’s head coach and 28th overall in the program, after serving as now-Legacy coach Jay Madden’s offensive coordinator the first five years of the school.

Woitalewicz is confident that Dakota Ridge will be in a place to win games in November, despite the fact the Eagles are starting seven sophomores, including three on the offensive line. That’s the opposite of Chatfield’s experience, as the Chargers returned 17 starters from 2022.

With senior quarterback and Northern Colorado pledge Blake Palladino leading the Eagles’ offense, and Woitalewicz’s grandson Brayden Cusick highlighting the defense at middle linebacker, Dakota Ridge has the potential to mimic the team that went to the semifinals in 2019 and ’20.

“Palladino’s got the keys to the car, and how he goes is how we go offensively, because he obviously triggers things for us,” Woitalewicz said. “We thought we’d be good, we just didn’t know how quick these sophomores would develop and step up. I think we’re ahead of pace with that.”

What both programs do have in common besides geographical proximity and an on-and-off rivalry spanning several decades is the notable on-field family ties that make Friday night lights all the more superb.

Cusick is the second grandson Woitalewicz has coached, the first being Dillon Meyers, who was the 2016 4A Jeffco League MVP. Meyers is the linebackers coach over Cusick, his brother.

“I didn’t know at first how it was going to work out,  but it’s made their relationship even better,” Woitalewicz said. “Brayden respects Dillion, and Dillon respects Brayden and doesn’t want to be overly hard on him but wants to coach him up. It’s been fun to watch them both develop and grow in their roles.”

On Chatfield’s side, former Colorado State great and College Football Hall of Famer Greg Myers is in his second season on Rosholt’s staff as the Chargers’ assistant defensive backs coach. Myers, the first Ram to win a major national honor when he claimed the Jim Thorpe Award in 1995, played five seasons in the NFL for the Bengals and the Cowboys.

An anesthesiologist by day, on Friday nights he gets to coach his son Dagan Myers, a senior cornerback, and the rest of the Chatfield secondary.

Dagan currently has offers from CSU and Wyoming, and has come into his own at cornerback despite not playing tackle football until high school and initially starting on varsity as a receiver.

“The road to where he is is completely different than mine,” Greg Myers said. “He’s doing unbelievably well for as little as he’s played. I try to teach him little techniques, I watch film with him and break it down with him… I try to mix that in with him, but I’m also his dad. I just know he has an instinct for defensive back. And he’s a lot quicker than I was.”

Dagan Myers and the Chatfield defense stifled Dakota Ridge in the second half on Friday, finishing what the Chargers’ offense started.

Jones’ one-yard TD run put Chatfield up 7-0 early, but Dakota Ridge responded with an 80-yard drive capped by Palladino’s five-yard TD run. Back-and-forth they went en route to a 14-14 first-half tie, as Rohlman’s 75-yard TD reception for Chatfield was equalized by Sam Callas’ four-yard scoring scamper.

But Rohlman swung the momentum back to Chatfield midway through the third, when Jones found him for a 34-yard TD pass to put the 5A team up 21-14. Palladino & Co. responded, marching down the field before the QB found the endzone on a three-yard run.

But Chatfield then used the Jones-to-Rohlman connection for a third time, a 16-yard TD to put the Chargers up 28-21 in the waning seconds of the third quarter. An interception by Niguse Shelp on the next drive gave the ball right back to Chatfield, which the Chargers converted into a field goal to push the lead to 31-21. Jones added another late TD run to put the game way out of reach, and then Chatfield got a scoop-and-score with under a minute left.

The going doesn’t get any easier for either program following Friday’s rivalry. Dakota Ridge is at 4A No. 6 Broomfield next Saturday, while Chatfield is on the road against a much-improved Arvada West team on Friday.

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