It hasn’t taken long for the Class 1A Football schedule to take off in 2018.  After only a few contests in week one, the week two slate is filled with tremendous matchups.  Included on the list are top 10 battles between #1 Strasburg and #3 Burlington and #4 Centauri against #7 Paonia.  Winners of each will have a nice leg up in playoff positioning come November.
Strasburg has dropped just one game since joining the Class 1A ranks before the 2016 season and of course the Indians have won the state title each of the past two years.  Attempt at number three opened last week with a 35-13 win over University.  Despite the win, the Indians suffered another key injury so their depth will be tested through the first month of the season.
Burlington hopes this is the week they end a frustrating two-year streak against the Indians.  Last year the Cougars’ season was bookended by losses to Strasburg to open the season (24-6) and the playoffs (21-0).  Coach Glynn Higgs’ club also came up short to Strasburg in the 2016 season opener (48-14).
Cougars QB Braden Witzel is coming off a strong junior season where he ran for 1,047 yards and threw for 299 but he has struggled against the Strasburg defense.  In the two games last year, Witzel completed just 8 of 32 passes for 98 yards and because of sacks, finished with minus 27 yards rushing.  Expect him to put in a strong performance on Friday.
Strasburg ran for at least 210 yards in both wins last year and combined for 199 yards in the two wins but much of that production has graduated or been hurt already this season.
Centauri and Paonia also have quite a bit of recent history.  Friday’s game is a rematch of a physical season opener last year won by Centauri 20-13 that helped push the Falcons on their way to a state championship game appearance.  The two clubs did not meet in 2016 but Paonia scored regular season wins in 2015 (49-6) and 2014 (44-0).  Two games were played in 2013 as Centauri knocked off the Eagles during the regular season but Paonia won the rematch in the state championship game (32-24).
Both clubs lost virtually all of their offensive production from last year’s matchup.  Taj Cornum is back for Centauri and he contributed 24 yards rushing and eight receiving on one catch.  Paonia returns running backs Jesse Burns (49) and Sackett Chesnik (14).  New quarterbacks will debut for each team.
Defense may be the strength on opening night.  Centauri gets back Bennie Chacon (19 tackles last year) and Adam Chacon (11).  Paonia will be led by Chesnik, Burns and Anthony Felice who all recorded seven tackles against the Falcons a year ago.
#6 Peyton and #8 Crowley County expect to battle for the Santa Fe championship later this season but first the teams must work their way through a difficult non-conference slate.  Both teams could be tested this week as the Panthers go to Florence and the Chargers entertain Rye.  Both opponents were winners in week one.
The Peyton-Florence contest could be done in about 90 minutes as each team wants to establish the running game.  The Panthers, who are playing their season opener, return Josh Gonzales (502 yards) and Gunner Saarela (462) in the backfield.  QB Trevor Walker begins his third year as starter and he created 416 yards on the ground as a junior.
Florence ran for 197 yards in beating Rocky Ford 20-6 last week.  The win marked a successful entry into the 1A division after many years of competing for playoff berths in 2A and 3A.  Owen Busetti picked up 91 yards and Rayden Swallow finished with 83 in the win.
Peyton may have the advantage in throwing the football.  Walker threw for 690 yards and 12 TD’s last year and over 530 yards two years ago.  Florence QB Joshua Martinez hit three of six attempts last week for 55 yards including a 27-yard scoring strike to Sean Kelso.
Crowley County and Rye are the only matchup in Class 1A this week featuring two teams that played in week one.  Crowley County wasn’t pushed in a 40-6 rout of Ridgeview Academy while Rye earned a run-dominated 27-8 win over Ellicott.  Four juniors paced the Thunderbolts attack as Hayden Palmer picked up 83 yards, Robert Buford 58, Bryce Benz 35 and Riley Prichard 29.  Benz also threw for 65.
The Chargers were also strong in the run game finishing with 299 yards.  Tyler Schwartz led the team with 135 yards and Jorge Valdez added 91.  Sophomore Adam Schultz hit 7 of 12 passes in his first game as the starter and hit Texas transfer Quamon Williams on a TD pass.  Williams, who should be a threat to opposing defenses all season, caught four balls for 59 yards in his Colorado debut.
#2 Limon opens their much anticipated 2018 campaign by hosting 2A Lamar.  The Savages were a regular playoff team and made the bracket as recent as 2015 but have compiled just three wins in the past two years.  Limon returns almost their entire lineup of skill players including their top passer, rusher and receiver but must get solid line play and stay healthy to make a championship run.
#5 Wray gets the week off after downing Highland 41-8 in impressive fashion last week.  Unfortunately, the game will go into the books as a loss for the Eagles as they forfeited the result after self-reporting on the use of an ineligible player.  It will be interesting to see how that change affects the playoff situation of both times if each is on the bubble late in October.
The Eagles are next in action on September 7th at home against 2A Sheridan.
#9 Meeker faces a second consecutive Class 2A opponent when they visit Coal Ridge on Friday.  The Skiers were upended in their home opener by Aspen 38-26 last week.  Pass defense was a conference as the Cowboys gave up five TD passes to Tyler Ward and all went to Noah Hollander.  Meeker was also able to move the football with a sophomore QB as Ryan Phelan completed 24 of 44 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns but was unable to match the Skiers score for score.
Andy Kracht caught eight passes for 162 yards and both touchdowns.  Jacob Shelton added six receptions and Tannen Kennedy paced the running game with 44 yards and a score.
Coal Ridge will be looking to build on last year’s success in their season opener.  The Titans improved from 1-8 in 2016 to 5-4 in 2017.  The search for more wins may be difficult as the Titans lost Jacx Powers (1,601 yards rushing — 15 TD’s) to graduation.  Jan Hernandez, who was second on the team in rushing (871) and sixth in tackles (38) is the top returnee.
We should also find an intense rivalry game in the San Luis Valley this week as #10 Monte Vista is home to Alamosa.  Despite being separated by just 20 miles on highway 160, the two SLV rivals have not played since 2005.  And current Monte Vista coach Manny Wasinger was in charge of the Mean Moose that year and led the program to a state championship in 2006.  Now he will try to knock off his former club.
The Pirates have been a playoff team each year since 2010.  This year they will rely on the trio of Tyler Vigil (340 yards), Zach Hindes (265) and Kaidon Wenta (253) to pick up the over 1,500 yards lost with the graduation of Jacob Chavez.
Alamosa seeks a third consecutive playoff berth in 2A this year.  They also host La Junta next week so it’s a tough opening stretch.  John Lujan returns to direct the Moose attack as he’s the top returning passer (569 yards) and rusher (273) from last year.  He was involved in 13 touchdowns.
Staying in the San Luis Valley, it will be good to see the Center Vikings back on the football team.  The program reached the 2016 playoffs but could not field a team last year due to low numbers.  They are back with a team this year and will resume action at home against Lake County on Friday.  Lake County (0-1) lost to Ignacio 40-0 in their opener.