FOOTBALL: 1A CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
1A Newcomers Buena Vista & Cedaredge Collide
Every two years, prep football in Colorado is realigned with teams changing leagues and schools moving up or down a classification depending on enrollment. Looking back to the start of this realignment cycle, no division underwent more changes than Class 1A and that becomes even more apparent in the state championship game on Saturday. Buena Vista and Cedaredge spent years competing on the 2A level but now square off for the 1A Gold Ball in their first year inside the classification.
Ranked #1 in the pre-season by Colorado Preps, Buena Vista has not disappointed rolling through their 12-game schedule outscoring opponents 551-66 overall. Their average margin of victory is 40.4 points per game and the Demons have been challenged only once all season in an 18-15 decision over Hotchkiss in non-league play. Cedaredge has outscored opponents by 300 points over their 12 game slate including a 32-6 loss to 3A Eagle Valley in their season opener. They also own two narrow wins over Hotchkiss beating the Bulldogs 21-20 to win the Western Slope league title and more importantly a 16-12 decision in last week’s semifinal round.
Even though they beat Hotchkiss in the regular season, last week’s win by Cedaredge was considered surprising by many. They scored the win with starting quarterback Dante Markley on the sideline because of injury. Markley totaled 231 yards of offense in the regular season win over the Bulldogs but as a spectator last week, he was treated to a special effort by his defense. They forced three turnovers, limited Hotchkiss to a season low 167 yards on the ground and did not allow a completed pass the entire game. That effort and just enough work by the offense pushed the Bruins into the state championship game for just the second time in school history and first since 1993. Carter Wasser was a key offensively as he picked up the slack in Markley’s absence and scored the game winner late in the third quarter.
The key on Saturday for both teams could involve what happens in the second half. Big and physical up front, Buena Vista tends to wear down opponents in the third and fourth quarters. That strategy has been on display big time in the playoffs. The Demons have outscored three post-season opponents 136-20 but most of the damage has occurred over the final 24 minutes. They did lead Lyons 23-0 at halftime on their way to a 50-0 first round blowout but the last two games have been much tighter at intermission. Buena Vista led Burlington 20-6 at halftime but then scored 20 third quarter points and they matched that third quarter effort after leading Wray by just six points at intermission (6-0). The Demons ended up beating Burlington 53-12 and Wray 33-8.
The Demons power running attack was held in check by Wray last week resulting in a season low 167 yards on 40 attempts but the passing game responded with maybe their best overall effort. Koby Close completed six of eight passes for 154 yards and two scores. The yardage was the second highest effort of the season surpassed only by the 170 yards against Custer County. Cedaredge of course will spend the week trying to figure out ways to slow down the Buena Vista running game but the Demons success through the air gives the Bruins defensive staff even more things to be concerned with.
Markley’s status for the championship game is mixed as we’ve heard from some that he will play and from others that he’s out for the rest of the season and maybe a portion of the basketball season as well. It’s hard to envision that the Bruins can knock off the Demons without his services and there’s no doubt the youngster wants to play.
If Markley can’t go, then more of the load will again be shifted to running back Carter Wasser. He’s a threat in both the running and passing game. The senior leads the team in rushing with 1,162 yards and also tops in receptions with 31 for 409 yards. He’s combined for 23 touchdowns overall and his ability to reach the end zone will be critical on Saturday.
Despite the low numbers posted against Wray last week, Buena Vista’s offense has rushed for exactly 4,000 yards on the season and has scored a whopping 77 touchdowns on the season. Dakoda DeFurio leads the attack with 1,326 yards and 23 touchdowns from his tailback slot. Close is next with 1,204 yards and 14 scores at quarterback with Nathan Weese also contributing 579 yards and 8 touchdowns. Close also moved past the 1,000 yard mark passing last week and has thrown for 16 touchdowns but the aerial attack is a second option and not utilized very often until the ground game has been established to set up the play-action pass.
Buena Vista is playing for their second state football championship. They previously won the championship in 1999 beating Monte Vista 31-16 for the 2A title. The Demons fell to Holy Family in the 2005 state finals and have an overall record of 1-5 in championship games also losing in 1979, 1963, 1958 and 1952. The only previous state championship appearance for Cedaredge came in 1993 when they lost to Rye (26-8) for the 2A crown. Saturday will be the first playoff meeting between the two schools.
Kickoff is set for 1:00pm on Saturday from Buena Vista. Coverage will be available statewide and online at www.chsaa.tv.