While we’ve a had a sprinkling of conference games in the Western Slope, the brunt of the league schedule across Class 1A gets started this week. Despite that statement, the best game may be of the non-conference variety as unbeatens Buena Vista and North Fork get together in a very important game to RPI and playoff bracketing.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY OT SPORTSCHECK
Buena Vista (5-0) used a strong second half rally to stay unbeaten last week as they stunned Meeker with a last second field goal in a 17-14 win. The Demons, at one point, trailed 14-0 but scored the final 17 points of the game including the game winner from Tam Flowers. Jacob Phelps scored both touchdowns and the Demons ran for 155 yards and threw for 76.
Defensively, the Demons allowed 256 yards on the ground to Meeker and that’s cause for concern for this week as North Fork (4-0) enters averaging 268 yards yards rushing a game. They’ve also scored 15 touchdowns on the ground. Mordecai White leads the attack with 392 yards and seven scores. Defensively, the Miners are strong up front with Coulson Hollembeak recording eight sacks in four games. They’ve also created 10 turnovers including three interceptions and a fumble recovery by Drayden Taylor.
North Fork is fifth in RPI this week and Buena Vista one step down in sixth. The winner boosts their chances of hosting a first round playoff game in early November. Regardless of outcome, both teams will still have to work to do to win a league title as the Demons must battle through Florence and the Miners will be challenged by Meeker.
Meeker (2-2) is tied with North Fork and Gunnison atop the Western Slope with all three sporting 2-0 league marks. Meeker entertains Grand Valley while Gunnison is home to Cedaredge. Both sets of Cowboys are favored to win and keep a piece of the conference lead.
For Meeker, their job will be to feed the ball again to Kelton Turner. The senior rank for 215 yards and a TD in the frustrating loss to Buena Vista. He also led the club with 11 tackles and intercepted a pass. Grand Valley (1-2) has league losses to Gunnison and North Fork so they likely need a win to earn a top three finish at years end. This game is also important to their playoff chances. They ran for 163 yards and a touchdown in the loss to North Fork but probably need even better numbers to take down Meeker.
Gunnison (4-0) has conference wins over Grand Valley (17-7) and Olathe (51-8) so they’ve not been pushed in the Western Slope thus far. With a win this week and next week against Colorado Springs Christian, the Cowboys will be 6-0 entering a tough final stretch where they face both Meeker and North Fork.
The third West Slope conference game features Roaring Fork at Olathe as one team will nab their first win of the season.
With all six clubs in top 15 of RPI this week, the North Central is simply loaded. Because of those standings, all three games in the league each week could be considered tossups. Openers on the agenda this week include:
- Holyoke (3-1) at Burlington (2-2)
- Limon (4-0) at Yuma (3-1)
- Wiggins (4-0) at Wray (3-1)
Overall, the league is 19-5 with losses coming to Florence (Holyoke), Centauri (Wray), Strasburg (Yuma) and Wray and Elizabeth (both Burlington). The Wray-Burlington game two weeks ago was a non-conference game as the two border rivals meet again in the final week.
The margin of victories have also been huge. Limon has outscored opponents by 151 points, Wiggins by 133, Wray by 99, Holyoke by 53, Yuma by 49 and Burlington by 31.
Some of the top rushers include Clay Robinson of Yuma (605 yards), Jeremiah Leeper of Limon (511), Cole Kerr of Wiggins (479) and Yahir Trejo of Yuma (442). Passing leaders include Kerr (816), Jaden Dodsworth of Wray (603), Wyatt Sprague of Holyoke (453) and Garret Richardson of Burlington (350). Limon’s Trey Hines is also a top quarterback but has just 27 attempts in four games for a total of 216 yards.
Some names of defense to watch for inside the conference include Miles Sprague of Holyoke (42 tackles), Mohamed (41) and Laith (34) Ibrahim of Wiggins and Carlos Legarreta of Holyoke (35). Ky Bandy of Limon was also the Badgers top tackler a year ago for a club that won a third consecutive state championship.
Ever since Strasburg came into the 1A division before the 2016 season, their matchup with Highland has determined first and second in the Northern conference. Strasburg has won all five previous matchups and posted three shutouts in the process. The Indians have outscored Highland 183-36 in those games.
Their head-to-head matchup is set for this week and could again determine first and second; with Flatirons Academy possibly in the mix as well. Highland actually has the better record (3-2) and may feel this is the year they can end the frustration against the Indians (2-3). The Huskies also meet Flatirons next week so this is a critical two week stretch for their playoff bracketing future.
QB Sam Hzindill is the key for Highland as he leads the team in passing (659) and rushing (422) yards. He’s been involved in 10 touchdowns but over the past couple weeks, more threats have developed for the Huskies offense. That list is headed up by Caleb Polk with 272 yards rushing and 19 catches for 314 yards. He’s reached the end zone five times this year.
With the injury to QB Landon Martin in the fourth quarter of the loss to Limon, Strasburg has turned more to the running game the past couple of weeks. They generated 200 yards on the ground in last week’s win over Bennett (41-0) including 175 from Zach Marrero. The junior now has 498 yards on the season and will likely be the number one option for the near future the new quarterback gets more comfortable. On defense, the Indians are in good hands with Matthias Brown as the senior has collected 46 tackles.
The Indians are also battled tested against one of the more difficult schedules in any class. They have wins over Bennett and Yuma with losses coming to Limon, Centauri and 2A Platte Valley. Four of those opponents are probably playoff squads at the end of the year.
Flatirons Academy (3-1) and Estes Park (1-3) meet in another key Northern league game. It’s their third meeting this calendar year as they met twice during the spring season. The Bison won both; 27-26 in the regular season and then a 41-6 win in the state semifinals.
Estes has lost three straight overall after opening the season with a high scoring 46-34 win over Middle Park. Flatirons needs to recover from last week’s 41-7 loss to Wiggins. They had given only 19 points in their first three games.
Centauri (4-0) is again favored to land the Southern Peaks crown and they’ll carry a 20-game conference winning into the opener with Center (1-3). The Falcons have outscored opponents 168-30 this year and have been pushed only once; they were tied 14-14 at halftime in their opener with Wray before posting a 28-14 victory.
QB Bryon Shawcroft is a first-year starter at the position but he’s completing 64 percent of his passes. He hit eight of nine attempts with four touchdowns in the 48-3 win over Strasburg two weeks ago. Two of those scores went to Deven Brady with Peyton Polzin and Baron Holman each catching one. Mason Claunch ran for 200 yards as well.
The Falcons are also well rested as their scheduled game with Bayfield last week was cancelled due to COVID with the Wolverines.
A second game in the Southern Peaks has Del Norte (1-3) on the road to Monte Vista (3-2). The Pirate are favored; they’ve won two straight following a 1-2 start. Wins have come against Platte Canyon and Cedaredge where they allowed just 12 points combined. That defense is led by DeAngelo Archuleta with 71 tackles in five games. Jack Noonan has added 48 while Khegan Gunter has been involved four turnovers.
One game in the Tri Peaks has Florence (5-0) at Rye (3-2). The Huskies have arguably been the most dominant team in 1A thus far, outscoring opponents 264-15. They’ve scored in almost every way possible with 21 rushing touchdowns, seven through the air, two defense and a whopping six in kick returns. With 10, Jian Aguilar has the most trips to the end zone followed by Levi Paxton (7) and Jacob Kennedy (6).
Rye is trying to regroup after an unexpected 44-7 loss to Burlington. The Thunderbolts’ other loss came against Holyoke by the score of 44-7. Florence topped the Dragons 36-15.
The Thunderbolts also meet Buena Vista next week so their league championship hopes rest over the next ten days. Wins in both should land them the Tri Peaks crown; a split should be enough for a playoff berth while losses in both may end their postseason chances.
The Foothills chase is wide open and no clear cut favorite. Manual (2-2) has the best record while Clear Creek, Jefferson and Platte Canyon all have one win. Bennett (0-4) is winless but coul dmake a run especially if they open with a win at Clear Creek (1-3) this week.
Clear Creek got an early start on league play with their 52-6 win over Sheridan last week. They Golddiggers had scored just six points through three games but the offense exploded in a big way last week. Now they look for a second win over a Bennett club that has been outscored 148-13 against a brutal schedule of Highland, Buena Vista, Limon and Strasburg.
Manual has wins over Prospect Ridge and Banning Lewis. The second one probably the most important as the Stallions could end up with the Santa Fe league championship. Jewell Cameron had a huge day with 271 yards and two scores passing and another 205 and two on the ground.
The Thunderbolts meet Jefferson this week. The Saints have a win over Pinnacle (40-0) and a narrow loss to Alameda (14-12). Richye Salas is their go-to-guy offense with 278 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
Platte Canyon hosts Sheridan. The Huskies opened with a fine 18-0 shutout of Del Norte but have lost three straight by a combined 85 points. Those games were against Flatirons Academy, Highland and Monte Vista.
Banning Lewis (2-2) begins their run to the Santa Fe crown at home against Rocky Ford (0-4) this week. The Santa Fe has just four teams this year so each club has just three conference games. The Stallions rallied late in the loss to Manual last week as they came close to a third straight win. Rocky Ford has given up 152 yards and scored just six. That touchdown came in week two against Rye in a narrow 15-6 setback.
The winner between Banning Lewis-Rocky Ford will still have to get by Peyton before thinking about a league title. The Panthers (2-3) are on a bye week following a 12-6 loss to Colorado Springs Christian last Saturday.