Conference play has begun on the Western Slope but otherwise football teams in Class 1A have one more week of non-league play before taking on the goal of winning a league championship and automatic playoff bid.  There are several important non-conference games on the schedule this week as teams also jockey for more RPI points and better wildcard positioning.


Before we get to those games, let’s focus on the Western Slope where a few clubs have already played two conference matchups.  One of them is Grand Valley (1-1) and the Cardinals look to remain in title contention by upsetting preseason favorite and 6th ranked North Fork.  It will be a tough assignment as the Miners are 3-0 and have allowed only eight points in three games.

Grand Valley recovered from a tough 17-7 conference opening loss to Gunnison by bouncing Roaring Fork 35-14 last week.  The Cardinals average 249 yards per game on the ground but managed only half that total (122) in the loss to Gunnison.  They’ll need a much bigger number this week if they hope to hand North Fork their first loss.

Emilio Garcia, with 481 yards and five TDs, leads the Grand Valley running game.  He’s also a factor on defense including a three interception 10-tackle game against Gunnison.  Steven Hicks adds balance offensively with 442 yards and four TDs passing.

North Fork’s defense gave up a fourth quarter score to Center in week one but nothing since.  The Miners defense has 39 tackles behind the line of scrimmage including 13.5 sacks.  Couslon Hollembeak has six sacks to lead the team and is second with 24 tackles.  Carter Neff leads the list with 35 stops.  The group has also produced eight turnovers with half coming from Drayden Taylor who has intercepted three passes and scooped up a fumble.

The offense also helps the defense by chewing up time on the clock.  They’re averaging 259 yards a game and almost 10 yards per carry (9.8).  The Miners have 10 scores on the ground; six of them from Mordecai White.

A second Western Slope game has Gunnison on the road to Olathe.  The Cowboys top the 1A RPI charts this week and are heavily favored to grab the win.

Roaring Fork (0-4) has the week off while Meeker and Cedaredge both are involved in tough non-league battles.  The Cowboys meet 4th ranked Buena Vista and Cedaredge faces Monte Vista.

The Meeker-Buena Vista pairing is also important to RPI standings as the Demons are sixth this week and the Cowboys 14th.  Both are likely playoff teams and Meeker has a slight advantage as the Western Slope gets two automatic bids.  Buena Vista must find a way past Florence and possibly Rye for the Tri Peaks championship and that automatic berth.

The Cowboys lost to Limon in their opener but have scored 40 points in their last two wins over Roaring Fork and Cedaredge.  Kelton Turner has done most of the offensive damage as the senior has 330 of the teams’ 552 yards rushing and seven of the nine TDs scored on the ground.  Turner averages 11 yards a carry so you can be assured the Demons defense will focus on limiting that number.

Defensively, Turner is also the leader with a team high 23 tackles.  Zach Simonsen and Elijah LeBlanc are next with 17.  Zach Eskelson has 15.

Buena Vista is unbeaten (4-0) and coming off a solid 21-8 win over Peyton.  The offense has rushed for at least 212 yards in every game this year and thrown for at least 110 in two of the four.  The Demons defense limited Peyton’s running game to just 90 yards on 35 carries (2.6 per carry).  The group has created nine turnovers overall but just one came in last week’s win.

Another highly anticipated non-conference matchup on tap this week pits unbeatens Wiggin and Flatirons Academy on the same field.  Both are 3-0 and like Buena Vista-Meeker, it’s a huge game for RPI.  Flatirons hopes to earn an automatic bid through a league title but must battle both Strasburg and Highland to get there.  Wiggins has an even tougher challenge as they’re in the North Central league that includes top 10 opponents Limon, Wray, Holyoke and Yuma.

With those future schedules in mind, the winner this week grabs a huge win to boost playoff chances.  For Flatirons, this game is easily their most difficult to date as they’ve beaten Platte Canyon, Jefferson and Denver West.  Those three teams have a combined record of 3-7 entering week five.

The Bison have created 1,098 yards of offense in those wins with 950 of it coming on the ground.  13 of their 15 TDs have also been generated in the run game.  Nolan Sheppard is the biggest threat; rushing for 461 yards and 10 scores while averaging over nine yards each carry.

On defense, Trevor Ryan tops the Bison with 29 tackles including seven for loss.  They’ve forced seven turnovers with Danny Rodriguez the only player with both a fumble recovery and interception.

Wiggins is well rested.  They’re coming off a bye.  After a quality win over Highland in week one, the Tigers outscored their last two opponents 98-6 so they also need to be pushed to prep for the rugged conference slate that lies ahead.

Cole Kerr is among the best QB’s in the state.  He leads the Tigers in passing (501) and rushing (318) yards and has been involved in 15 scores overall.  Five of his TD passes have gone to Omar Perez who leads the team with 15 receptions overall.

The defense is stout and led by Mohamed and Laith Ibrahim.  Mohamed is first in tackles with 31 and Laith is second with 25.  They’ve also combined for six of the Tigers’ 11 sacks.

There are at least two other games in our mind that will impact the playoff bracket in November.  They are Burlington (1-2) at Rye (3-1) and Lamar (1-2) at Holyoke (2-1).

Holyoke is seventh in RPI but looks to bounce back from a tough loss at Florence last Saturday.  The Dragons led 15-14 at halftime but were outscored 22-0 over the third and fourth quarters.  Turnovers; they had five, were an issue and they also surrendered both a defensive and special teams touchdown in their first loss of the season.

Despite the loss, the Dragons moved the ball on the ground with Carlos Legarreta getting 74, Wyatt Sprague 68 and Miles Sprague 64.

Lamar was impressive in a week one win over Sierra (40-8) but they haven’t score since in losses to Burlington and Pueblo County.  The Savages are currently 37th in RPI so they face a long road to the playoffs.  A loss this week may leave them with needing a win over Classical Academy in league play as the best chance to make the playoffs.

Burlington had momentum after beating Lamar in week two but lost it when they couldn’t play in week three due to COVID.  They added a game with long-time rival Wray in week four but fell 34-0 so they’re regrouping as well as they head to Rye.

The Thunderbolts are 3-1 but sit 17th in RPI so they could use a quality non-conference win before facing Florence and Buena Vista over the next two weeks.  Always able to run the football, the Bolts have a very good one-two punch in Caleb Hurne (453 yards) and Dylan Hurne (316).  The difference this year though is balance from QB Nolan Schauer who has thrown for 332 yards and two scores while completing two-thirds of his attempts (40 of 60).  Riley Rochester has the most catches (11) and Codah Graber the most TD grabs (2).

Strasburg and Bennett renew their rivalry this week and it’s very unusual not to have the matchup among the best in the division.  Both teams though have struggled out of the gate.  Strasburg has played a strong schedule and is battling injuries as they sit 1-3.  Bennett is winless (0-3) and has been outscored 107-13 thus far.

Regardless of the outcome, both teams will remain the playoff chase.  Strasburg will benefit from their brutal schedule and will still contend for the Northern championship with Flatirons Academy and Highland.  Bennett is a member of the Foothills where no team has more than one win overall.  Even if they enter at 0-4, they will have a legitimate shot at claiming that crown and automatic playoff berth.



#1 Limon vs Coal Ridge (SAT)

#2 Centauri at Bayfield (SAT)

#3 Florence vs Rocky Ford

#4 Buena Vista vs Meeker (SAT)

#5 Wray – BYE WEEK

#6 North Fork vs Grand Valley

#7 Holyoke vs Lamar

#8 Wiggins at Flatirons Academy

#9 Yuma at Sidney NE

#10 Strasburg vs Bennett