Each week we try to provide a complete overview of Class 1A football and concentrate on the top games across the state.Â But this week, almost 100 percent of the focus will be centered on the one versus two matchup between Strasburg and Limon.Â Itâ€™s a non-conference game but there are plenty of implications involving the outcome.
The winner of course will be the number one team in the rankings next Monday and if both teams win their remaining games after Friday, the winner will have a strong argument for top overall playoff seed.Â And thereâ€™s RPI standings as the winner will gain plenty of points in the all-too-important strength of schedule.
It has the makings of a great game as both teams have displayed talented football teams through three weeks and each has had just one game decided by single digits.Â Strasburg survived Burlington 13-6 in their second game and Limon held off a late charge last week in beating Meeker 25-16.Â They led the contest 25-0 in the fourth quarter.
Statistically the teams are very even.Â Limon has scored 106 points in three games and Strasburg 80.Â The Indians have surrendered 27 points and the Badgers 29.
Letâ€™s give plenty of credit to Strasburg for the ability to keep winning football games.Â They have just one overall loss and two state championships since joining the Class 1A division before the start of the 2016 season.Â Winning this year has been a challenge for Coach Jeff Gigerâ€™s bunch as each week they seem to lose a key player to injury.Â But new players continue to step up and the Indians keep posting marks in the win column.
In the pre-season, the Indians lost top returning rusher Trystan Graf to an injury.Â He rushed for 368 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman last season but has yet to play a single snap this year.Â Tarek Robinson has helped fill the gap with 110 yards on the year including 87 in their last win over Bennett two weeks ago.
But most importantly has been the play of Michael Spence.Â A running back to start the season, Spence stepped in for injured starter Collin Russell at quarterback and has been a difference maker in that position.Â He threw for 142 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Bennett and has 206 yards for the season.Â Spence also leads Strasburg with 303 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground.
IF the game turns high scoring, then Limon should be able to keep pace as Coach Mike Oâ€™Dwyer has several offensive weapons to choose from.Â Hauk Hubbard returned from injury last week and led the offense with 72 yards rushing against Meeker.Â He was limited to one carry against Crowley County but his services were not needed in a 40-6 decision.
Sophomore Kory Tacha could be the focus of the Strasburg defense.Â He lines up at several different positions and has the ability to score from each.Â He rushed for 61 yards with a touchdown against Meeker but also caught four passes and 91 yards and two additional scores.Â Canaan Bennett directs the high-powered offense and has thrown for 290 yards including at least 125 in each of the past two games.
As mentioned, both defenses allow less than 10 points a game and each unit has shown the ability to create turnovers.Â The Badgers have forced eight turnovers including two fumble recoveries by Drew Albers.Â Strasburgâ€™s defense has six turnovers this year including five interceptions.Â Robinson and Spence also lead in that category with two apiece.
Wyatt Warren has 23 tackles to lead Strasburg and Jon Walters has 20.Â The Indians have eight tackles for loss overall including three from Eddie Duron.Â Tacha, with 21 stops, is the top tackler for Limon.Â Jaron Carpenter has 13 and Zane Korinek 13.
Strasburg has won the last two regular season matchups.Â They blew past the Badgers 43-16 in 2016 but last year was a tight game as the Indians ended up on top 14-12.
Although the number one overall playoff seed wonâ€™t be up for grabs, the playoff bracket could change based on the outcome between #8 Holyoke (3-0) and Highland (2-1) this week. Â Â The Dragons are unbeaten but sit just 21st in RPI points because their opponents have combined for just two wins.Â Still their defense is strong as theyâ€™ve allowed just six points in three games.
Highland blew past Valley 49-7 last week as Logan Stewart collected four touchdowns and 134 yards rushing.Â He nearly matched his total of 148 through the first two games.Â The Huskies are 14th in RPI points this week.
A third game of note in the Northeast has #5 Wray (2-1) moving up a class to visit 2A Brush (1-2).Â The Eagles have outscored opponents 117-8 on the year with their only loss coming by forfeit to Highland.Â Coach Levi Kramerâ€™s defense played at a high-level last week as they held Cornerstone Christian to minus two yards rushing on 22 carries.Â Their longest run was eight yards.
Offensively, the Eagles continue to be led by Cade Hillman.Â The senior gained 156 yards with three TDâ€™s in the win and now has 345 yards and seven scores through three games.Â Tyler Collins also hit Carlos Tarin on a 19-yard touchdown pass against Cornerstone.
Brush is playing this season with a freshman QB but Alejandro Maltos-Garcia continues to get better each week.Â The â€˜Diggers also have an explosive running back in Nick Wellen who will be the focus of the Wray defense.Â Brush gave up four touchdowns through the air in last weeksâ€™ loss at Alliance Nebraska but the defense this week must be focused on slowing down the Wray running game.
Despite a two-game winning streak, Paonia has yet to climb back into the top 10 but a victory over 2A #5 Basalt on Friday would easily get them there.Â Doing so wonâ€™t be easy as the Longhorns have been sharp on both sides of the ball in wins over Olathe, Battle Mountain and Pagosa Springs.Â Theyâ€™ve allowed just six points while ringing up 106.
To upset Basalt, Paonia needs to avoid the turnover.Â The Longhorns have forced a whopping 14 turnovers in the three wins including 11 fumble recoveries.
About two-thirds of the Longhorns offense has come on the ground with Jake Reardon leading the attack.Â He has 378 yards and three touchdowns.Â QB Trevor Reuss has also scored five times on just 29 attempts.Â The senior has also thrown for 319 yards and four scores.
Those two will be operating against a Paonia that has improved each week.Â After giving up 38 points in an opening loss to Centauri, the Eagles have not allowed another point in beating Monte Vista (41-0) and Coal Ridge (19-0).Â They limited Monte Vista to just 77 yards of offense and Coal Ridge generated only 62 on the ground and 59 through the air.
Anthony Felice had 10 tackles and Sackett Chesnik nine against Monte Vista.Â Grey Neal, Levi Peterson and Austyn Norris finished with seven apiece.Â Chesnik added a dozen tackles against Coal Ridge and Jesse Burns 10 but the secondary came through with four interceptions.Â Soul Connelly and Neal each had a pair.
#10 Buena Vista and #6 Centauri are both 2-1 but they head into their week five showdown with different levels of confidence.Â The Falcons lost to Pagosa Springs in week three but refocused to blow by Olathe 39-9 last week.Â Buena Vista opened 2-0 but needs to regroup following a 43-0 loss at Salida last week.Â They were down 21-0 after one quarter and did not challenge the rest of the way.Â The Demons longest pass play was five yards and their best running play generated 10 yards so that unit needs a spark but that may prove difficult against a physical Centauri defense.
#3 Burlington (2-1) has collected two straight wins following the opening loss to Strasburg.Â They host Manual on Friday and then open North Central play in rugged fashion with consecutive games against Wray, Holyoke and Limon.
#4 Peyton (3-0) has outscored opponents 142-25 this year and that number is more impressive when you consider all three teams could make the playoffs.Â Theyâ€™ve beaten Florence, Colorado Springs Chrsitian and Clear Creek.Â Next up is a road trip to Platte Canyon on Saturday.
The Panthers will likely battle #7 Crowley County for the Santa Fe championship.Â Those two teams meet on October 19th.Â The Chargers are off this week and then visit rival Rocky Ford on the 29th to open the conference schedule.
#9 Meeker had a bye before the loss to Limon and get another one after as they have just eight games on their regular season schedule.Â Thus, the Cowboys will be well rested for the Western Slope chase which begins against Grand Valley on September 28th.Â The annual battle with Paonia is set for October 12th in Meeker.