FOOTBALL: 8MAN CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
Southeast Powers Hoehne & Granada to Square Off
When Granada and Hoehne take the field on Saturday, the 2012 eight man season will end with a couple of great storylines on tap. Will the state championship be won by the Bobcats for a legendary coach directing maybe the final football game of his career or will the Farmers continue to add to the resume of a burgeoning state powerhouse?
After several seasons in Class 1A, Hoehne returned to the eight man ranks in 2006 and has been a factor in the state championship race ever since. The Farmers were ousted in the first round in 2006 and missed the post-season all together in 2009, but Saturday will mark their third consecutive appearance in the state finals adding to semifinal trips in 2007 and 2008. The program has won 37 of their past 38 games with the only loss in that stretch coming against Dayspring Christian in the state finals last year. They won the championship in 2010 in overtime at Caliche and as the #2 seed in the bracket this year; they’re the slight favorite on the road this Saturday.
Manual Gonzales has been the head football coach in Granada since the mid 1970’s and Saturday’s contest will mark the fifth decade he’s coached a state championship game with the Bobcats. The weekend will actually represent 43 years between his first state final and his latest appearance. The Bobcats landed Gonzales his first state title in 1979 when they beat Peetz (30-8), won a second title in 1988 with a victory against Eads (16-8) and then outlasted Stratton in triple overtime (47-46) to capture the 2006 championship. In between and around those titles are runner-up finishes six other seasons.
Because of that history and what could come to an end on Saturday, emotion will play a huge role for Granada. They of course will be fired up for a state championship game but may need to temper those emotions a bit as they try to send out Gonzales a winner in what could be his final football contest.
Seeded 16th in the bracket, Granada has beaten three higher seeds to reach the state championship game. The run began with a 32-27 win at top ranked and defending state champion Dayspring Christian in round one and continued with wins over #8 Dove Creek (20-18) and #12 Fowler (26-16) over the next two weeks. Four regular season losses brought on by a quality schedule and key injuries led to the low tournament seed but now healthy the Bobcats are considered one of the most talented teams in the state. Colorado Preps in fact had the Bobcats seventh in their pre-season rankings so it’s a not a surprise they’re competing for the state championship.
Hoehne meantime lost a very talented senior class to graduation following their state championship loss to Dayspring Christian but a new crop of skill players have grown up quickly in Coach Bob Schafer’s system. This “new” group now has a chance to add a Gold Ball to the expanding trophy case at Hoehne High School.
Sawyer Schafer did not play in last year’s state championship game because of injury but the senior played almost every snap of the final two years ago while leading the Farmers to the championship. Had he not been injured through much of the second half of the season a year ago, Hoehne could easily be seeking a third consecutive crown instead of going for two of the last three.
Schafer had maybe his best game of his sparking career in last week’s semifinal win over Walsh (72-48). Trailing the Eagles 21-6 in the first quarter, Schafer then took over and ended the day with seven touchdowns. He scored on runs of 24, 3, 6 and 55 yards, hit Derrick Cordova for touchdown passes of 45 and 29 yards and then finished up with a 22-yard scoring strike to Brandon Segura in the fourth quarter. Overall, Schafer generated 384 yards of offense including 256 through the air and 128 on the ground. Wyatt Schrepfer added 169 yards rushing and Cordova ended up with season highs in receptions (8) and yardage (144) helping the Farmers amass over 600 yards of offense.
Cordova could be the difference maker on Saturday as the Bobcats defense will need to keep him in check. Last weeks’ effort pushed Cordova over 1,000 yards receiving which is rare in the eight man game. He’s caught at least two touchdown passes in six of 12 games and enters the championship with 15 scoring catches overall. The Farmers offense on the season has scored 620 points and is averaging 52 points a game.
If there is an issue with Hoehne coming out of the semifinal win over Walsh; it’s on defense where they routinely gave up big plays. Walsh scored on touchdown runs of 24, 46 and 78 yards in the first quarter and added a 73 yard scoring pass in the second quarter. The Eagles also reached the end zone on runs of 66 and 49 yard during a wild third quarter in which the teams combined for 46 points.
Trying to take advantage of the Hoehne defense will be the combination of Koy Palmer and Saul Pizarro. Both have taken turns leading the Granada offense throughout the season. When healthy, Palmer is among the best signal callers in eight man and Pizarro can then be a big play threat from the running back position. When Palmer has gone down with injury, Pizarro has often moved to quarterback to direct the attack but the Bobcats are at their best offensively with Palmer under center.
In the semifinal win over Fowler, Palmer opened the scoring with a 42 yard pass to Brynden Burns and added a three yard touchdown later in the first quarter. He finished the game with 114 yards rushing and added 46 through the air. Pizarro added a touchdown run against the Grizzlies but gave his best playoff effort in the first round upset of Dayspring Christian running for over 200 yards against the defending state champions.
Saturday’s championship game from Granada is scheduled to kickoff at 1:00pm and can be seen online at www.chsaa.tv. Several radio stations from Southeast Colorado will be broadcasting the contest including KVAY from Lamar.