Sixteen qualifiers for the Class 1A football playoffs have been determined and now those clubs get the postseason started with first round games this weekend. Limon and Strasburg have dominated the classification of late with Limon winning the last three state titles and Strasburg the previous two.
Those two are in the mix again this year but there are many more challengers including unbeatens Centauri and Buena Vista along with Florence, Wray and Meeker who are the next three seeds.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY OT SPORTSCHECK
Colorado Preps previews the matchups and will recap the action during a special Saturday playoff edition of the Bank of Colorado Scoreboard Show which airs from 3:30-5:00pm.
#1 Limon (9-0) vs #16 Bennett (4-5)
The Badgers are the three-time defending state champions and outscored opponents 387-71 during the regular season. In that total was a 46-0 win over Bennett in week four. Limon ran for 306 yards and six touchdowns in the win but it was the defense that led them to victory. They pushed back the Tigers to a total of minus 32 yards rushing and minus five through the air. Bennett’s longest play was just seven yards. Ky Bandy and Jordan Rockwell each had six tackles with Bandy getting five of his behind the line of scrimmage. Bennett is a much better team since the first meeting but must establish a ground game to spring the major upset.
On the season, Jeremiah Leeper has led the Limon offense with 1,236 yards rushing with Gabe Schubarth adding another 886. They combined for 171 yards in the win over Bennett. The Tigers average 176 yards per game on the ground but is well rested as they had a forfeit win over Sheridan in their regular season finale.
- HISTORY: Limon has won the last three state titles and has a state best 20 all-time titles. The Badgers have won 11 straight in the postseason with two of them decided by single digits. Bennett did not qualify last year and lost to Platte Valley 38-6 in the 2A first round in 2019. The Tigers last victory was in 2017 when they beat Paonia 35-23 in the state quarterfinals. The Badgers and Tigers have played just once in the playoffs with Limon getting the narrow 15-13 win in 1986.
#8 North Fork (7-2) vs #9 Wiggins (6-3)
This has the makings of a very good game as both teams are battle tested against strong schedules. But the host Miners have more momentum; they’ve won three straight including an impressive win over Gunnison last week (42-6). North Fork ran for 373 yards and five touchdowns in the win including 195 yards from Drayden Taylor. Blaine Peebles added another 120 yards on just two carries; one of which was a 90-yard touchdown dash. On defense, Carter Neff recorded 16 tackles and Taylor had 10.
Wiggins has league losses to Wray, Holyoke and Limon but the Tigers are very physical up front and can move the football both through the air and on the ground. QB Cole Kerr had 336 yards of offense in last week’s loss to Limon and on the season has 1,825 yards and 23 TDs passing and 1,080 and 15 scores on the ground. The defense is a concern as they gave up 393 yards rushing to Limon.
- HISTORY: North Fork is making the first playoff appearance in school history. Hotchkiss reached the bracket in both 2019 and 2020 but lost to Highland and Wray in the first round respectively. Paonia last made a trip in 2018 but that program won state championships as recent as 2014 & 2015. Wiggins is in the playoffs for the first time since 2015. They beat Rye 28-10 in the first round that year. Paonia beat Wiggins 49-0 in 2014; Hotchkiss beat Wiggins 48-7 in 2012 with Wiggins downing the Bulldogs 47-19 in a 2011 semifinal.
#4 Florence (8-1) vs #13 Monte Vista (6-3)
A good first round pairing of two teams that fell one game short of landing conference championships. Monte Vista ended a five-game winning streak with a tough 55-8 loss to unbeaten Centauri last week and Florence came up short to Buena Vista 20-17 two weeks ago in the Tri Peaks championship game.
Florence regrouped well in handling Colorado Springs Christian 45-7 last week. They are very explosive on offense with Jian Aguilar (728 yards) and Jacob Kennedy (657) leading the ground game and Lexi Paxton, with 766 yards and 17 TDs, adding big plays in the passing game. Jesiah Cornwell and Luguse Nuss each have 15 catches and Xavier Martinez 12.
Monte Vista surrendered 352 yards rushing to Centauri last week so they’ll need to be better on that side to slow down the Huskies offense.
- HISTORY: This the first-ever playoff meeting between the the two schools. Monte Vista has qualified for the first time since 2018 but this is their 10th appearance since 2010. They have just three wins over that time frame with the most recent coming in 2017 as they downed Clear Creek 39-34. Florence is in the playoffs for the 21st time in 22 years. They’re 6-4 in their last 10 first-round matchups and fell to Centauri 20-17 a year ago. Their last win came against Wray (29-23) in 2018.
#5 Wray (7-2) vs #12 Highland (6-3)
Even though the Eagles and Huskies did not play during the regular season or during 2020, the programs are very familiar with one another. They matched up 14 times between 2006-19 with the Eagles grabbing wins in 11. Highland though won the last contest in 2019; scoring a 14-6 win.
Current Highland QB Sam Hzindil was also the starter in that win so he has experience in beating the Eagles. He enters his final high school playoff run coming off a regular season of 882 yards passing and 588 on the ground. He’s been involved in 14 touchdowns. Caleb Polk is another threat; he’s gained 453 yards and eight scores on the ground and leads the team with 24 catches for 344 yards.
Wray’s only losses are against the top two seeds in the bracket; #1 Limon and #2 Centauri. They’ve also scored wins over playoff entrants Wiggins, Holyoke and Yuma. Many of those quality wins have come with freshman Casey Midcap at quarterback. In seven games played, Mdicap has thrown for 603 yards and four touchdowns with 307 yards and three scores on the ground. Caeden Bauer tops the Eagles with 544 yards rushing and Chris Arambula has 23 receptions for 403 yards. Bryant Schoenthal is a huge target at tight end with 16 catches for six touchdowns.
Schoenthal and Tell Wade are both major parts of a defense that has recorded 17 sacks and 19 turnovers. Wade has 5.5 sacks, Schoenthal 4.5 with Brady Collins also chipping 4.5. That trio will spend the game trying to chase down Hzindil.
- HISTORY: This is the fifth straight playoff trip for Wray. They have 47 wins in school history but only two have come since 2013 but both are in the past two years. They downed Hotchkiss 38-13 in the first round last year and beat Florence 13-10 in 2019. Highland missed the playoffs last year due to the reduced eight team bracket but qualified the four previous seasons. They have just two playoff wins in school history; beating Hotchkiss 14-7 in 2019 and Rocky Ford 32-3 in 2007. Wray and Highland have not met previously in the playoffs.
#2 Centauri (8-0) vs #15 Peyton (6-3)
As mentioned, Centauri rolls into the playoffs on the strength of their 55-8 league championship win over Monte Vista. The Falcons outscored eight opponents 326-56 and other than a 28-14 opening win over Wray, beat every team by at least 29 points.
Against Monte Vista, the Falcons did not have leading rusher Mason Claunch on the field, but still generated 476 yards of offense. Deven Brady stepped in and picked up 136 yards with three touchdowns rushing. Byron Shawcroft added 83 yards and two touchdowns and added 124 yards passing with a fourth score. Baron Holman added four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Peyton averaged right at 20 points per game during the regular season but will probably need more than that to pull off the upset. With four straight wins, the Panthers have momentum and are battle tested with losses coming against Buena Vista and Florence. They allowed 212 yards rushing and 110 yards passing against Buena Vista and seek a similar effort this week. They could also create some turnovers and with 19 on the season, that’s been a strength of their defense.
- HISTORY: Peyton has qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2018. They qualified each year from 2015-18 and won two first round games in that period; beating Platte Canyon 22-8 in 2018 and Limon 16-7 in 2016. Their last playoff game resulted in a 10-7 loss to Centauri in the 2018 quarterfinals. That’s the only previous playoff meeting between the two. Centauri is in the bracket for the ninth time in the last ten years. They’ve reached at least the quarterfinals each of the past four years including a championship game appearance in 2017. They are 16-17 all-time in playoff games.
#7 Strasburg (6-3) vs #10 Yuma (5-4)
This is a rematch of one of the better regular season games in Class 1A as Strasburg rallied past Yuma 19-16 in week two. Yuma played with the lead for most of the game but Strasburg came out the winner with a time-consuming fourth quarter drive that led to the winning points. Strasburg ran for 323 yards in the win including 157 and a touchdown from Zach Marrero. QB Landen Martin had two scores but he will not play in the rematch after suffering a season-ending injury at mid-season.
His replacement is Kaleb Hart who has gotten better each week. He’s totaled 474 yards of offense in his starts and should have confidence going into the playoffs. Marrero, with 997 yards and 13 touchdowns, is the main offensive threat.
Yuma managed just 184 yards rushing in the first game with Strasburg but is coming off a big 418-yard effort in last week’s win over Holyoke, It’s their second game over 400 this year and have two others with at least 370. Clay Robinson ran for 311 yards and three touchdowns last week and sits at 1,388 and 14 for the season. The senior has also thrown for 421 yards and three touchdowns. Yahir Trejo, with 527 yards rushing, is another offensive threat.
- HISTORY: Yuma is in the playoff bracket for just the second time since 2013. Their last win came that season in a 42-0 shutout of Rye. The Indians fell to Colorado Springs Christian 17-14 in 2019. Strasburg has played in five consecutive state championship games and have won their first round games in those seasons by an average of 35 points. The exception came last season when they survived for a two point win over Meeker. This is their first-ever playoff meeting.
#6 Meeker (7-2) vs #11 Holyoke (5-4)
Playing at home and the higher seed, Meeker is favored but this matchup could be the best game of round one. Both are battle tested. Both lost to top seeded Limon with Meeker also dropping a tight game with Buena Vista (20-17) where they gave up a 14-0 halftime lead. Holyoke fell to Florence (36-15) in non-league action and also came up short to Wray and Yuma inside the North Central.
Holyoke’s defense has struggled against the run of late; giving up 418 yards to Yuma last week and 326 to Limon the week before. Even a win over Wiggins, the Dragons allowed 479 yards of total offense. Those numbers should have Kelton Turner and the Meeker offense ready to play. He averages almost 10 yards per carry with 1,377 yards for the season. He’s reached the end zone 21 times.
Meeker is also well rested. They’re coming off blowouts of Olathe (46-0) and Center (47-0) so the first unit has had plenty of rest.
- HISTORY: The clubs have met just one time in the playoffs and it was recent with Meeker edging Holyoke 12-7 in the 2018 first round. Meeker makes their eighth straight playoff appearance and is 6-1 in first round games in that stretch. The lone loss was last year against Strasburg (36-34). Holyoke is in the bracket for a fourth straight; going in 1-2 in the first round over the previous three. The win came in 2019 over Rocky Ford 57-6.
#3 Buena Vista (9-0) vs #14 Gunnison (7-2)
Another club that should be fresh for the first round is Buena Vista. After toppling Florence 20-14 in week nine, the Demons had a bye in week 10 so the little injuries each team has at this time of year should be healed. Gunnison meantime dropped two of their last three including a tough loss to North Fork last week. The Cowboys have beaten just one playoff team and that came against 8man Dove Creek.
Buena Vista’s defense is led by Elijah Evans (77 tackles) and Seth Moss (65). They’ve forced 16 turnovers including three interceptions apiece from Jacob Phelps and Orion Herrie. On offense, QB Hayden Camp has 731 yards passing and 954 yards on the ground with 16 combined touchdowns.
Gunnison has not provided complete stats to MaxPreps but ran for 1,241 yards in their first five games. They’ll look to control tempo with that running game. Defensively, they allowed a combined 596 yards rushing in losses to Meeker and North Fork.
- HISTORY: The teams have met twice previously in the playoffs with Buena Vista beating Gunnison 31-6 in 2007 and Gunnison earning a 33-25 decision in 1984. The Cowboys are in the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Buena Vista is in the bracket for a fourth straight year with their lone win in that stretch coming last Spring against Clear Creek.