Seven of the eight home teams picked up wins in the opening round of the 1A playoffs with Yuma the exception as they downed Strasburg 35-20 on the road. The loss ended Strasburg’s run of five consecutive trips to the state finals and moved Yuma into a home quarterfinal with Centauri. Three-time champion Limon is also home to North Fork this weekend while Wray meets Florence and Buena Vista looks for a second win this year over Meeker.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY BOBBY GUTIERREZ
#8 North Fork (8-2) at #1 Limon (10-0)
Both teams have wins over Wiggins in the last two weeks. Limon outscored the Tigers 59-27 to close the regular season and clinch the top playoff seed. North Fork topped Wiggins 38-25 last week to score a victory in their first-ever playoff game as a school.
The difference for North Fork last week was the passing game. They had totaled just 438 yards through the air in the regular season but exploded for 261 against Wiggins. Hunter Moreno was responsible for every yard and finished with two touchdowns. Both went to Blaine Peebles who had a huge day for the Miners. He caught eight passes for 235 yards and also picked up 81 yards in the return game. Drayden Taylor added 136 yards and two scores on the ground.
Limon picked up their 12th consecutive playoff win in blasting Bennett 45-0. Three more wins get them to 100 in school history and that’s the same number they need to earn a fourth consecutive state championship. Defensively, the Badgers forced four turnovers including an interception and fumble recovery by Brady Rockwell.
On offense, it was again the run game that dominated for Limon. Jeremiah Leeper and Gabe Schubarth each ran for 108 yards while combining for just 18 carries. On the season, Leeper now has 1,344 yards and 15 scores with Schubarth sitting at 994 and 20 touchdowns.
North Fork allowed just 55 yards rushing to Wiggins last week but faced only 10 attempts as the Tigers played from behind for most of the game. Carter Neff had 14 tackles and Lane Allen and Taylor each provided a dozen. That group will have a tougher assignment against a Badger running game churning out over 300 yards a game.
- PLAYOFF HISTORY: This of course is the first-ever meeting between North Fork and Limon. The Miners are a program that combined the schools of Paonia and Hotchkiss this year. Limon is 2-0 all-time against Paonia; scoring wins in 2010 and 2003 by a combined 67 points. Limon and Hotchkiss have split four previous playoff battles. The last meeting came in 2012 with the Bulldogs getting a 47-26 decision.
#5 Wray (8-2) at #4 Florence (9-1)
It can’t be considered a 1A playoff bracket without the Eagles and Huskies getting together. This is the third meeting in the past four years with the clubs splitting the previous two matchups. The first two meetings were down to the wire and another such battle could be in the offing this week.
Both clubs were impressive in the opening round. Wray moved past Highland 34-9 and Florence blanked Monte Vista 23-0. The Eagles got a strong performance from QB Casey Midcap as the freshman hit 15 of 20 attempts for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Ryce Peterson (6) and Bryant Schoenthal (5) combined for 11 catches and 138 yards and each scored a touchdown. Caeden Bauer, with 90 yards rushing, provided balance as the Eagles finished with 365 total yards.
Wray’s defense had two turnovers as both Peterson and Jackson Bledsoe each recovered a fumble. Brady Collins had 10 stops in the win.
Florence led Monte Vista just 6-0 after three quarters but finished strong; scoring 17 fourth-quarter points. They gained a 13-0 lead midway through the final frame but then took complete control on a pick-six from sophomore Loghan Bottier. It was one of three interceptions by the defense on the day with the other two coming from Gage Goodall. The Huskies defense has 26 turnovers on the season. Monte Vista ran the ball 34 times but ended up with just 17 yards. Lincoln Nix had 12 tackles and Ryan Howard 10.
- PLAYOFF HISTORY: Wray picked up a win in 2019 (13-10) with Florence scoring a 29-23 decision the year before. The Eagles need a win to reach the state semifinals for the second straight year; the Huskies last made the Final Four in 2012.
#2 Centauri (9-0) at #10 Yuma (6-4)
As mentioned, Yuma advanced with a 35-20 win at Strasburg last Saturday as the Indians collected their first playoff win since 2013. That win avenged a 18-12 regular season loss and pushed the Indians into the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2009.
The running game again triggered the Yuma offense as QB Clay Robinson finished with 198 yards and four touchdowns on a physical 23 carries. The senior has 1,586 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season including 509 yards and seven scores over the last two weeks. Yahir Trejo added 67 yards in last week’s win but the key against Centauri will be how well Robinson can move the football against a very good Centauri defense.
The Falcons allowed just 34 yards on the ground to Peyton last week. Centauri also jumped to 45-0 halftime lead and was able to rest many of their starters through the third and fourth quarters. They did allow 147 yards passing but also intercepted four passes in the first round win. The offense is very explosive with a home-run hitter in Mason Claunch as the tailback can score from anywhere on the field.
- PLAYOFF HISTORY: This is the first postseason meeting between Yuma and Centauri. Centauri has been to the semifinals each of the past four years including a title game appearance in 2017. Their last four playoff losses are against Strasburg but Yuma’s win last week prevented another matchup. Yuma last reached the semifinals in 2009 and they won the championship that season.
#6 Meeker (8-2) at #3 Buena Vista (10-0)
This is a rematch of a regular season game where the Demons rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit to score a wild 17-14 win. Tam Flowers hit the game winning field goal in the final two minutes to finish off the strong second half rally. Buena Vista ran for 155 yards in the win including 62 from Hayden Camp and 50 from Jacob Phelps. Phelps scored both touchdowns and Camp added another 66 yards in the passing game. Elijah Evans registered 11 tackles to lead the defense with Ethan Flavin and Seth Moss each adding ten.
Despite the loss, Meeker got a big effort from Kelton Turner. He had 11 tackles on defense and also finished with 215 yards and a touchdown on the ground. It was one of three regular season games where the senior ran for over 200 yards.
A fourth such effort came in last week’s 42-35 first round win over Holyoke. The Cowboys totaled 259 yards rushing with Turner responsible for 238. That effort pushed him to 1,615 yards and 23 touchdowns for the year. He also had 13 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
Other contributors in the win were Connor Blunt, Dagon Dade, Zac Eskelson and Zach Simonsen. Blunt completed just three passes but one was a key scoring pass to Dade. Eskelson topped the Cowboys defense with 18 tackles and Simonsen added 16.
Buena Vista had a much easier time in round one as they downed Gunnison 42-14. The Demons led 35-0 at intermission. They ran for 309 yards; their second highest total of the season. Phelps (115) and Camp (108) both reached the century mark. Overall, the Demons have 35 rushing touchdowns this season.
- PLAYOFF HISTORY: This is the first time the Cowboys and Demons have met in the quarterfinals but it’s the third playoff pairing between the two. Meeker picked up a 34-20 first round victory in 2019 while Buena Vista won the 2014 semifinal matchup 48-18. The Cowboys have lost four straight in the quarterfinals. The Demons are one of ten teams that competed in the spring that qualified for the playoffs this fall. They lost to Manitou Springs in the semifinals last May (20-17) and last reached the Final Four in the fall during their 2015 state championship run.