1A FOOTBALL PREVIEW – WEEK 1

In what turned out to be a state championship winning season, Strasburg a year ago this week opened with a 48-14 thumping of tradition rich Burlington.  The lopsided win served notice to the rest of the 1A division that the Indians were a true title threat and this Friday, the defending champs look to start the 2017 season in the same manner.
Even though the Indians are ranked number one to open the season and share the state’s current longest winning streak with La Junta (13-0), repeating that effort won’t be easy.  Coach Jeff Giger’s club lost a very talented senior class and this year’s contest is in Burlington which has never been an easy place for visiting teams to win.
Last year’s contest was over quickly as the Indians scored three first quarter touchdowns and added two more in the second.  Burlington never got their running game in motion as they were limited to just 43 yards on 20 carries.  Strasburg meantime ran for 417 yards including several big play touchdowns.
Most of the key components in the Strasburg win have graduated expect for senior standout Hunter Bergstrom.  Bergstrom led the Indians in rushing for the entire season and galloped for 58 yards and a score on just seven attempts.  With most of his backfield mates no longer on the roster, expect Bergstrom to get many more touches at least early in the season.
Burlington, ranked 8th to open, looks to counter with Braden Witzel and Case Reiber.  Witzel tossed a 74-yard TD pass in last year’s loss and Reiber gained 23 yards on seven carries.  Both were second and third options at their position a year ago but will get their number called much more often in 2017.
#3 Bennett will have a close eye on the outcome between Strasburg and Burlington.  Not only will it impact the rankings, but the Tigers play both teams in the very near future.  Strasburg is on the schedule in week two and the Cougars come calling in week four.
Bennett opens their season vs Cornerstone Christian and rang up 78 points and 424-yard rushing against them a year ago.   Rocky Lechman (115) and Jesse Rodriquez (104) combined for 219 yards and six touchdowns on just nine attempts in the win.  Both ended the season with over 1,000 yards and both return to the Tigers backfield this season.  Their goal is to make quick work of Cornerstone this week and then begin prepping for the huge showdown with the defending champions and arch-rivals.
#5 Peyton is another top ten club that could post an easy win this week as they meet Byers.  Both teams were in action during zero week but with much different results.  Peyton rolled up 217 yards rushing in their 42-0 shutout of Trinidad while Byers did not reach the end zone in a 38-0 loss to Rocky Ford.  Despite the loss, the Bulldogs displayed some improvement including 154 yards rushing.  Their defense also limited the Meloneers to 247 yards in total offense.
2nd ranked Meeker used a strong second quarter to handle Highland 40-0 last Friday.  The Cowboys led just 8-0 after one quarter but then tallied 26 in the second quarter for a 34-0 halftime advantage.  A balanced offense was the key with the Cowboys gaining 211 yards on the ground and 184 through the air.  Logan Hughes, in his third year as the starting QB, led both categories with 161 passing and 74 rushing.  Doak Mantle added 51 yards and Jorgen Stagg chipped in 41 on the ground.  Trapper Merrifield caught four passes and Stephen Walsh two.
Up next for the Cowboys is a road trip to 2A Coal Ridge this Friday.  The Titans earned just one victory in 2016 and hope to rebuild a bit under first year coach Bob Frederickson.  After attempting 199 passes in nine games a year ago, expect the Titans to be a bit more run oriented this year especially with the return of Jacx Power (589 yards rushing).
#4 Paonia is off this week as the Eagles were scheduled to face Center on Friday.  But the Vikings as you know are not fielding a team this year.  Instead the Eagles opened at Centauri in zero week and came up short in a 20-13 loss in La Jara.  Both teams ran the ball well with Centauri picking up 129 yards and a touchdown from Nate Anderson and Paonia getting 150 from Jaden Miller.  Anderson also connected with Brandon Buhr on a late TD pass that turned out to be the game winner for the Falcons.
Centauri is back in action this week against Rye.  Originally scheduled for Friday, the game has been moved up to Thursday as the San Luis Valley continues to struggle with a shortage of officials.  Centauri lost a close one to Rye 17-14 in week one a year ago.
Other than the Strasburg-Burlington matchup, the best 1A contest involving a top 10 club features #9 Cedaredge at Monte Vista.  The Bruins won last year 23-10 and used the momentum for a nice 4-0 start .  It was the first meeting between the two since Monte Vista claimed a 20-7 win in the 2013 playoffs.
Both teams have holes to fill at key spots on the roster but each has enough returning to make another playoff run.  Cedaredge should get solid play at QB as both Pedro Madaleno and Jared Reynolds return.  They combined for 995 yards passing and eight touchdowns a year ago but they could use bigger numbers this season to offset the loss of top rusher Isaac Swoffer.  Monte Vista returns Jacob Chavez to the backfield.  He led the Pirates with 559 yards on the ground.  They’re also hoping to build on a late season charge from a year where they won four of their last six games.
Crowley County, ranked 6th, looks for a 2-0 start as they meet John Mall this week.  The Chargers gave up an early score but then ran off 26 unanswered points in downing Colorado Springs Christian 26-7 last Friday.  Bradley Clabey completed 7 of 13 passes for 118 yards and two scores, connecting with Chris Meyer and Hayden Carter for the touchdowns.  Coach Brandon Roe’s club whipped John Mall 50-14 during the 2014 season but the last two meetings have been much closer with the Chargers winning by 14 points last year and 18 in 2015.
#7 Platte Canyon and #10 Limon are the two remaining ranked teams in action in week one.  The Huskies host Sheridan and the Badgers are home to Rocky Ford.  Platte Canyon ran for 303 yards in a 47-0 drubbing of Sheridan a year ago.  It was the first time the two teams had played since the 2013 campaign.  Limon, on their way to a 3-0 start, handled Rocky Ford 21-6 in the opener a year ago.  Defense was the difference as the Badgers allowed just 25 yards rushing on 22 attempts.  Meanwhile they ran for 319 yards including 81 from junior fullback Hauk Hubbard who returns to lead the Badgers offense this season.
Rocky Ford as mentioned blew past Byers last week and the Meloneers received good efforts from Diego Reyes (117 yards rushing), Isiah Garcia (111 yards passing) and David Trujillo (2 TD receptions) in the win.  The defense also forced four turnovers including interceptions from Trujillo, Carlos Romo and Dahntay Torrez.
Outside the rankings, we’ll focus on games between Grand Valley — Vail Christian, Colorado Springs Christian — Wiggins, Wray — Ellicott and Clear Creek — Lake County.  All feature at least one team hoping to reach the playoffs.
Grand Valley in fact seeks a third consecutive post-season trip as they open on the road.  The Cardinals whipped Vail Christian 46-6 a year ago and with QB Jeff Hollbrook back in the lineup, will be favored again.  The Saints played 11-man football for the first-time last season and managed just one win.
Despite the loss to Crowley County, Colorado Springs Christian was outgained by just 29 yards on offense.  They’ll seek improvement in their second game and could run the ball a bit more behind the duo of Gabe Danzik and Joe Dunn.  Danzik led the team with 43 yards last week and Dunn, a freshman scored the Lions only TD last week.  Wiggins averaged 248 yards per game on the ground last year but lost speedy Shane Finegan to graduation.  The top returnee is Teggan Freuhaff who was second to Finegan with 617 yards rushing and averaged seven yards per attempt.
In hosting Wray, Ellicott has the advantage of already playing a game this year as they topped Ignacio 34-16 last week.  Wray pushed the Thunderhawks in a 29-24 loss a year but like Monte Vista, hopes to build on a strong finish to the 2016 campaign where they won four of their final six.  Cade Hillman was second on the Eagles with 436 yards rushing and four touchdowns and is back for Coach Levi Kramer.
The trip to Leadville marks the 2017 debut for the Clear Creek tandem of Ty Judge and Noah Siarra.  Both are among the top returnees statistically at their respective position.  Judge completed 17 of 31 passes for 357 yards and three scores in last year’s 33-8 win over Lake County.  Siarra touched the ball only four times but totaled 124 yards and two touchdowns.  The Panthers, who finished 2-7 last year, did manage 274 yards on the ground against the Golddiggers.
 

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