The next two weeks will see a wind-down of non-conference meetings in Class 1A football but the schedule both weeks is filled with important games that will impact post-season positioning in late October.  Teams need quality wins to beef up their RPI and improve chances of a wildcard berth should they not land automatic playoff berths with conference championships.
At least five games fit that description this week as Platte Canyon visits Colorado Springs Christian, Wray goes to Cornerstone Christian, Crowley County plays at Yuma, Clear Creek takes on Peyton and Limon plays host to Meeker.  In each case, the teams have a legitimate shot at winning a league championship but can boost wildcard chances with wins this week.
The game getting the most attention will be the Friday battle between #2 Limon and #9 Meeker.  It’s a rematch of a state quarterfinal game won by Limon a year ago.
The Badgers (2-0) looked very strong in blowing past Crowley County last week.  They ran it well; finishing with 205 yards despite leading rusher Hauk Hubbard getting just one carry.  QB Canaan Bennett also threw the ball nicely (128 yards) and he directs an offense generating 40.5 points per game.
Coach Mike O’Dwyer features a long list of skill players that can create yards and points in many different ways.  Hubbard and Kory Tacha were among the eight players that carried the ball and averaged five yards per carry against Crowley County.  Braden Sandersfeld and Celby Hollenbaugh are two speedy receivers that can make the big play.
Defensively, the Badgers held the Crowley County running game to just 42 yards on 26 carries and forced two early turnovers that were turned into touchdowns on short fields by the offense.  A win on Friday also likely sets up a #1 vs #2 showdown with Strasburg in week five.
Meeker continues their trend of churning out talented sophomore quarterbacks who start for three years and then turn the reins over to the next player in line.  Logan Hughes started as a sophomore and led the Cowboys to the playoffs, including a state championship game appearance, before he graduated last Spring.  Sophomore Ryan Phelan, the cousin to Hughes, is now in charge and has been very good in his first two starts throwing for 452 yards and three touchdowns.  He’s 34 of 68 overall.
Phelan gets plenty of help from Tannen Kennedy who rushed for 153 yards in last week’s win over 2A Coal Ridge.  Andy Kracht leads the Cowboys with 12 catches for 236 yards and he’s been on the receiving end of all three touchdown passes from Phelan.
On defense, James Amick tops the team in tackles with 24.  Kennedy is next with 21 and Tevin Pelloni has 18.  The unit has forced four turnovers through two games and may need more against the high-powered Badgers attack this week.
#4 Peyton’s pass defense will also be tested when they line up against Clear Creek (1-1).  For the third straight year, the Golddiggers feature one of the best passing games in Class 1A.  Lucas Gerding caught 60 passes for 1,002 yards and 15 TD’s last year but is now the one throwing the pigskin.
The senior threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns in a 36-35 opening loss to Hotchkiss and added 157 yards on just five completions in last week’s blowout of Lyons.  He’s also totaled 153 yards rushing on the season.  Ben Griffin is a top target.  He caught seven passes for 158 yards and four scores against Hotchkiss.
Part of Peyton’s strategy will likely be to run the football on offense and keep Clear Creek’s offense off the field.  The Panthers have run for at least 244 yards in each of their wins over Florence (260) and Colorado Springs Christian (244).  JD Hart rushed for 126 yards vs CSCS and 114 in the opener vs Florence.  He’s also scored twice in each game.  Trevor Walker added 104 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Colorado Springs Christian looks to rebound from the loss by hosting Platte Canyon on Thursday night. And while the Lions will be tasked with slowing down the Huskies traditional clock-chewing ground game, they will also be concerned their passing attack.  The Huskies attempted nine passes in a 12-0 shutout of Wiggins last week.  Liam Murphy completed five of those attempts for 76 yards and a TD.
The scoring toss went to Trevor Tinajera and covered 41 yards.  Tinajera also reached the end zone on a short touchdown run.
Both teams enter the game 1-1.  Platte Canyon opened the season with a loss to Buena Vista and Thursday’s game begins a crucial stretch.  They also meet Peyton next week to close up the non-conference schedule and then open league play with Clear Creek.  CSCS, if they get the win on Thursday, could easily be 4-1 heading into an October 5th showdown with Buena Vista that could determine the Tri Peaks championship.
Peyton Brones had a big day in the loss to Peyton.  He led the Lions with 12 tackles and also paced the offense with 152 yards rushing and two scores.
For reasons mentioned at the top, Friday’s game between Wray (1-1) and Cornerstone Christian (1-1) could have huge playoff implications.  Wray must get through both Limon and Burlington to land the North Central championship while Cornerstone has to battle two-time defending state champion Strasburg and Highland to earn the Northern crown.  Because of those schedules, each club may have to wait for a wildcard berth phone call from CHSAA and the head-to-head winner could gain the advantage in RPI.
Coming off a bye, Wray was not pushed in blowing past Sheridan 48-0 as they established a running clock in the second quarter.  They picked up 231 yards and six touchdowns on just 21 attempts.
Cornerstone Christian is in the middle of three straight games against the North Central.  Game one didn’t go well as they fell at Yuma 12-7.  The Bulldogs also meet Wiggins in week five.
Against Yuma, the Bulldogs were held to just 92 yards rushing on 27 carries.  Dillon Zastrocky was held to 53 yards after picking up 141 in a season opening win over Prospect Ridge.  They will need to establish offensively and get off the field on third down against the Wray running game on defense.
Two different sides of momentum in place when Crowley County (2-1) goes to Yuma (1-1).  As mentioned, the Chargers regrouping after the loss to Limon while Yuma is coming off a quality win over a team that was ranked in the top 10 last week.  It was also the first win at the school for new coach Kelly Seward.
This is the fifth straight year the two clubs have met in the regular season with Crowley County winning the first four.  Two of the games have been closely contested including a 21-3 win by the Chargers a year ago.  They also survived the Indians 13-10 in 2014.
Crowley County had scored 88 points in two wins but were held to just the one score late against Limon.  They generated only 42 yards rushing and 81 passing and this week face a defense that did not allow a play over 17 yards.
#1 Strasburg (3-0) is off this week after beating Burlington and Bennett in back-to-back weeks.  Coaches will likely spend Friday night in Limon scouting the Badgers as they face them in week five.  Meeker could also be a future playoff opponent.
Following the loss to Strasburg, #3 Burlington (1-1) got healthy in a 52-0 win over Ellicott.  The Cougars host Lamar this week and Manual next to close up non-league play.  Up first in the rugged North Central is the annual meeting with Wray.
#5 Centauri (1-1) is back on the field against Olathe on Friday.  The Falcons lost two spots in the rankings following a tough 31-12 loss to 2A Pagosa Springs.  The loss snapped a streak of 15 consecutive regular season wins.  Olathe has been involved in two shutouts; one good and one bad.  The good was last week in a 49-0 win over Center; the bad came in week two in a 28-0 loss to Basalt.
#8 Holyoke (3-0) has already matched their win total from a year ago.  The program has not won more than five since games since 2008 (6-4) and that number is within reach this year.  The Dragons get to rest with a bye this week ahead of a week five meeting with Highland.  They start conference play at Yuma on the 28th.
Outside the rankings, Buena Vista picked up a win over Cedaredge last week and now both teams turn their attention to 2A opponents this week.  The Demons face local rival Salida in a battle of unbeatens while the Bruins tangle with an Aspen team that led top ranked Bayfield 8-7 at halftime last week.  We feature both contests in our 2A report.