There’s a likely league championship game on the Class 1A week seven football schedule as North Fork makes the trek to Meeker. Both clubs are unbeaten in the Western Slope chase and head into the weekend tied with Gunnison. The Cowboys are unbeaten overall and will play a role in the league title but Friday’s winner between North Fork and Meeker become the league favorite.
PHOTO BY BOBBY GUTIERREZ
Both the Miners and Cowboys have played and suffered tough losses to Buena Vista over the past two weeks. Both clubs gave up 14-0 halftime leads in the loss. Meeker fell 17-14 two weeks ago as the Demons booted through a game winning field goal as time expired. North Fork gave up a touchdown in a final two minutes in a frustrating 28-21 loss last Friday.
The running game should determine this one as both clubs prefer to move the football in that manner. North Fork collected 249 yards and two scores in last week’s loss to Buena Vista including 68 from Mordecai White. Diezel Balko and Drayden Taylor each scored a touchdown as well. Meeker picked up 247 yards and four rushing touchdowns in last week’s 33-7 win over Grand Valley. Senior Kelton Turner remains the focus as he totaled 200 yards and all four scores. He was held to 28 yards in the opener with Limon but has 717 yards and 12 TDs over his last four games. Turner has been over 200 in each of the last two as well.
Both teams remain solid defensively. Before giving up 28 points to Buena Vista last week, North Fork had surrendered only 15 for the entire season. Carter Neff had 14 tackles and Taylor 11. Meeker’s defense was led by Zac Eskelson (11) and Elijah Leblanc (8) who combined for 19 tackles.
Of course there is a playoff factor involves as North Fork is 9th and Meeker 12th in RPI this week. The winner not only moves closer to the league championship but also the chance to host a first round playoff game. Gunnison could play a role in both races as they sit 8th in RPI. The Cowboys meet Colorado Springs Christian on Thursday in non-conference play before prepping for Meeker in week eight.
The next focus in our 1A report this week is on matchups of teams that posted wins in the opening week of conference play. That list includes pairings of Wray-Holyoke in the North Central along with Manual-Bennett in the Foothills.
Wray (4-1) scored a physical win over Wiggins last Friday; rallying from 7-6 down at halftime for a 20-7 victory. And the rally was sparked by the play of freshman QB Casey Midcap who entered the game when starter Jaden Dodsworth went out with injury. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 120 yards and two scores and may get the start again this week against Holyoke.
Ryce Peterson also tossed a scoring pass in the win with TD receptions by Chris Arambula, Bryant Schoenthal and Camden Riggleman. On defense, Brayden Collins had 11 tackles and two of the Eagles five sacks. Caeden Bauer added eight tackles.
Holyoke opened league action with a solid 34-12 win at Burlington. It was their second straight win since the tough loss at Florence. Miles Sprague ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and also caught seven passes for 71 yards. Tyson Mosenteen added 61 yards and two scores rushing and Wyatt Sprague threw for 104 yards.
The defense also played a major role as the Dragons picked off four passes and five different players combined for seven sacks. Miles Sprague and Aidyn Shafer each finished with eight tackles.
Wray earned a 27-7 win over Holyoke last year but the Dragons had won the previous two. Overall, the Eagles have won 15 of the last 18 games with all three Holyoke wins coming since 2015.
Limon was the third first week winner in the North Central league last week. They ran for 430 yards in last week’s win over Yuma including a career best 206 yards and three scores from Gabe Schubarth. Jeremiah Leeper picked up 114 yards on 16 carries and Trey Hines added another 51. He also threw for 61. Defensively, they limited Yuma to 112 yards on the ground.
This week, the Badgers meet Burlington to continue their long standing rivalry. The clubs have split the last six games and neither team has won three in a row since 2009. Limon has captured the last two.
Burlington is 2-3 on the season but a rugged schedule still has them 15th in RPI so they remain in playoff contention. Even with a loss, they may climb higher in RPI as the Badgers are 3rd this week and will again boost the Cougars strength of schedule.
Conversely, there’s a good chance that only the league champion from the Foothills earns a playoff nod. That makes the game between Manual (3-2) and Bennett (1-4) very important as the winner jumps to 2-0 in conference play. Platte Canyon also won their league opener and could get to 2-0 as they meet Jefferson this week.
Despite two fewer losses, a case could be made for Bennett to be favored in this one. They’ve played the much stronger schedule in non-league play with losses suffered to Highland, Buena Vista, Limon and Strasburg. At least three of those teams and most likely all four will be in the playoff bracket. Manual has a quality win over 2A Kent Denver and sit 23rd in RPI. Bennett is 24th.
Jewell Cameron is the top offensive threat for Manual. The quarterback was over 200 yards both running and throwing the football in the quality win over Banning Lewis two weeks ago. For the season, he has 949 yards of offense with eight TDs overall. He did not get on the field last week as the Thunderbolts were given a forfeit over Jefferson.
On defense, Elijah Josiah has 33 tackles for a group that has also produced 10 sacks and nine turnovers in just four games played.
Bennett had scored just 13 points the entire season before routing Clear Creek 48-6 last week.
In the Northern conference, we’re interested in seeing how Highland (3-3) responds from another frustrating loss to Strasburg. It’s the sixth straight year the Huskies have fallen short to Strasburg in a conference matchup but now they must rebound for another important game with Flatirons Academy (4-1). The outcome likely determines if the Huskies finish second or third in the league standings and a win keeps them alive for a playoff berth as they’re 17th in RPI.
Flatirons is coming off a solid 14-8 win over Estes Park last week and that bumped them to 13th in RPI. A win by the Bison probably makes the Northern conference chase a two-team battle with Strasburg. They challenge the Indians in the final week of the season.
Against Estes Park, the Bison ran for 229 yards including 109 from Devin Glowicki. The defense surrendered 226 yards to the Estes Park spread offense but also earned two interceptions. They limited the Bobcats to 46 yards rushing.
HIghland managed just 43 yards on 24 rushing attempts against Strasburg but QB Sam Nzindil threw for 131 yards passing. Caleb Polk and Zach Tittle led the defense with 14 tackles apiece.
Strasburg looks to build on the win over Highland by beating Prospect Ridge and Estes Park over the next two weeks. Wins in those will get them ready for the finale with Flatirons Academy which could be for the league championship. QB Kaleb Hart is a big reason for the win over Highland as he continues to get more comfortable as the starter. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 82 yards.
In the Tri Peaks, Florence and Buena Vista should finish 1-2. They don’t meet until week nine and both have some activity before then. Florence is off this week but tangles with Grand Valley next week. Buena Vista is coming off those two come-from-behind wins over Meeker and North Fork and will be favored in their league opener with Rye. The Thunderbolts have played well at times this year but have been outscored by Wray and Florence 96-7 over the past two weeks.
Centauri and Monte Vista both picked up wins in Southern Peaks play last week. Neither team has a game lined up for this week. Monte Vista has their normal bye week but Centauri’s game with Del Norte has been cancelled as the Tigers cannot play. The Falcons are still looking for a replacement game and also have next week so they can play either this week or next – or both since they lost an earlier game with Bayfield.
The Banning Lewis win over Rocky Ford last week is the only conference game played thus far in the Santa Fe. The Stallions filled an open spot on their schedule by pairing up with Denver West this week. Rocky Ford did the same as they will play Sheridan on the road.
Peyton has the lone conference game on the docket as they meet Trinidad this week. The Panthers are 18th in RPI and Banning Lewis 20th this week. They’re scheduled to collide on October 23rd.