Matchups on tap this week between Limon-Wray and Meeker-Gunnison are important to league championship races but results will also impact the very top of the seed order as all four teams are in the top eight of RPI. The Limon-Wray winner takes control of the North Central chase with the two sets of Cowboys sharing the Western Slope lead going in.
PHOTO BY ALAN VERSAW
REPORT IS PRESENTED BY STRATTON EQUITY COOP
Limon and Wray are third and fourth in RPI respectively and both are 2-0 in league play. The Badgers have opened the North Central run by beating Yuma 34-10 and Burlington 49-7. Wray has taken out Wiggins 20-7 and Holyoke 28-11 in their first two.
The Badgers have the ability to throw the football but haven’t had too because the run game has been dominant thus far. They totaled 430 yards rushing against Yuma and added another 338 vs Burlington. Jeremiah Leeper and Gabe Schubarth each scored three times against the Cougars and combined for 290 yards on just 26 carries. Slowing down those two is the first order of business for the Wray defense.
The Eagles defense is talented up front and on the back end as well. They limited Holyoke to just 207 yards of offense with Payton Wade picking off two passes and Casey Midcap a third. Caeden Bauer collected nine tackles with Ryce Peterson and Tell Wade each chipping in eight.
Wray’s offense continues to be led by Midcap, a freshman quarterback. He came on early against Wiggins when starter Jaden Dodsworth went down with injury. He led the second half comeback against the Tigers and had another solid effort against Holyoke; hitting 9 of 14 attempts for 155 yards. Chris Arambula and Andrew Trejo each caught three passes and Bauer also scored twice on the ground. The Eagles also ran for 149 yards in the balanced attack.
In allowing only 30 points the entire season, Limon’s defense has played with the lead from the start of almost every game. They forced three turnovers against Burlington but surprisingly have just six for the season. Ky Bandy had nine stops and Schubarth added nine. Wray has not scored more than 14 points in the last four meetings with Limon.
Overall, the Badgers have won six straight against Wray including a 24-14 win last year. Wray’s last win came in 2010 with an easy 49-6 victory. Both clubs are playoff teams this year and the winner should be in the discussion for a top two seed.
Also in the North Central, Holyoke and Wiggins collide with the winner moving into a second place tie with the Wray-Limon loser. Both clubs are 1-1 in league play but each should be in the playoffs as Wiggins is 6th in RPI this week and Holyoke 10th. The winner actually stays within range of hosting a first round postseason game.
Wiggins has scored 32 touchdowns this year with QB Cole Kerr involved in 26. 16 have come in the passing game where Kerr has thrown for 1,159 yards and the other 10 on the ground where has totaled 692 yards. The defense is also physical behind the play of Mohamed Ibrahim (62 tackles), Laith Ibrahim (58) and Pepper Rusher (52). The group has 21 sacks but has created only three turnovers.
Holyoke is 4-2 overall but has yet to beat a team with a current winning record. Wins are against Rye, Burlington, Lamar and Bridgeport NE with losses suffered to Florence and Wray. The defense has given up just 55 points in the four victories but 64 in the two setbacks.
The offense has balanced; averaging 189 yards rushing and 119 through the air but they’ve lost ten turnovers. Miles Sprague has 426 yards rushing and Wyatt Sprague 316 and the brothers have combined for 12 touchdowns. Miles is the top receiver with 18 catches and four touchdowns; Cash Weber has 16 receptions with four TDs as well.
Burlington and Yuma are both 0-2 and we don’t often mention a game where teams have not won conference games at this stage of the season. But both remain playoff contenders as Yuma is 13th in RPI and Burlington 15th. Strong schedules are the reason. The North Central could easily get five bids and all six have a chance to earn postseason play this year but the winner gains a slight advantage in that chase.
Gunnison is unbeaten and 7th in RPI with Meeker number 8th and coming off a great win over North Fork. That win pushed Meeker to 4-0 in the Western Slope while Gunnison checks in at 3-0. Meeker can clinch the league championship with a win but Gunnison cannot since they still have a game remaining with North Fork in the final week. The league gets two automatic bids and should get three teams in as North Fork is also 11th in RPI.
Meeker attempted just one pass in last week’s win over Gunnison but Kelton Turner remains a very hot runner. In his third straight game of at least 200 yards rushing, Turner finished with 256 yards and three scores against the Miners. His last two yards pushed him over 1,000 for the season (1,001) and he’s reached the end zone 15 times. And all those impressive numbers have come against being limited to just 28 in their opener against Limon.
On defense, the Cowboys forced four turnovers as Trinden Powell and Conner Blunt had interceptions and Zach Eskelson and Judd Harvey recovered fumbles. It was a bend but not break effort as the Cowboys allowed 240 yards rushing but only 13 points.
Gunnison’s offense has improved throughout the year. They did not score more than 24 points in any of their first games but has not been held under 33 in their last three. The defense has also been very solid in league play giving up just 15 total points in wins over Grand Valley, Olathe and Cedaredge. But with Meeker this week and North Fork in week ten, that slate is backloaded and the Cowboys get a major test this weekend. A win probably gets them a home game in round one of the playoffs.
In last week’s win over Cedaredge, Sam Buckhanan ran for 105 yards and scored twice on the ground. He also caught a TD pass. Kaleb Vincent also scored a touchdown in the run game and Michael Riser paced the defense with two interceptions.
North Fork should return to the win column as they visit Roaring Fork. The Rams have just one win this season but the victory over Olathe two weeks ago was their first since 2016 so the program is improving.
There’s a huge game inside the Southern Peaks this week as Monte Vista visits Ignacio. Neither team is expected to beat Centauri and win the league title but the Pirates and Bobcats are still battling wildcard bids and both are on the playoff bubble. Monte Vista is 16th in RPI with Ignacio 20th.
Monte Vista is coming off a bye and scored an easy 48-12 win over Del Norte in their last visit to the gridiron. It was their third straight win since a loss to North Fork. The continue to run the football with the tandem of DeAngelo Archuleta (571 yards) and Khegan Gunter (410) who have combined for ten scores. Against Del Norte, they had 31 touches and combined 218 yards and three touchdowns.
The defense is also improving as they recorded five sacks and four interceptions and limited Del Norte to just 25 yards rushing.
Ignacio was unbeaten on the season until last week’s home loss to Center (32-13). The Bobcats schedule does not match up with Monte Vista as their in-state wins have come against Roaring Fork and Trinidad who have one win between them. Against Center, the Bobcats gave up 165 yards rushing and 128 through the air.
Center jumped to 24th in RPI with the win and could climb higher this week as they’re favored against Del Norte this week.
League favorite Centauri finally gets a chance to play this week. The Falcons lost a game to Bayfield because of COVID earlier this season and were off last week. They did not have a game for this week until Tuesday night when Northfield became available when Pinnacle dropped out. So Centauri will visit the Nighthawks on Saturday at 2:00pm. It could be a good battle for the 2nd ranked Falcons as the Nighthawks lead their conference in Class 2A and have a very impressive win over Faith Christian on their resume.
In the Tri Peaks, fans are waiting for the big matchup between Florence and Buena Vista on the 22nd (next week). Both teams are 7-0 overall and battling for the top overall playoff seed. Buena Vista meets Colorado Springs Christian this week while Florence has the week off and extra time to prep for the Demons. Florence is 5th in RPI this week with Buena Vista all the way up to 2nd.
Strasburg (2-0) sits alone atop the Northern conference with Highland and Flatirons Academy (both 1-1) a game back. Highland beat Flatirons Academy last week so they have the tiebreaker for second. The Bison also have a game remaining with Strasburg and must win that contest to have any chance of at least sharing the league championship. Strasburg cruised by Prospect Ridge 67-0 last week and has a bye this week. Highland hosts Estes Park this week and Flatirons meets Prospect. RPI wise, Strasburg is 9th, Highland 12th and Flatirons 14th.
In the Santa Fe, Banning Lewis (1-0) and Peyton (0-0) remain the favorite and their head-to-head meeting comes next week (Oct 23rd). Banning Lewis is 17th in RPI and Peyton 21st so it’s probable that only the winner and league champion gets a playoff bid this year. And the league champion could end up outside the top 16 of RPI and bump a team ahead of them in those standings.
It’s the same situation in the Foothills where Bennett and Platte Canyon share the lead at 2-0. They meet next week in Bailey. Bennett is up to 18th in RPI but Platte Canyon is 28th so again just the league champion may see the post season bracket. Bennett hosts Jefferson this week and is favored for a third straight win. Platte Canyon will go over to Clear Creek.