If you feel like you already experienced most of the state quarterfinal games in Class 1A that’s because you probably have. Three of the four contests set for Saturday are regular season rematches and all three games take place at the same location as earlier. The fourth quarterfinal pits two teams coming off tremendous wins in round one.
#1 Strasburg (10-0) vs #8 Highland (7-3)
The two teams finished one-two in the North conference again this year and the difference was Strasburg’s 35-14 win over the Huskies on October 11th. It marked the fourth straight year the Indians moved past their league rivals and each result determined the top two spots in the league standings.
Even though Strasburg outgained Highland 265 yards to 104 on the ground, the throwing of Collin Russell may have been the difference. He hit on 11 of 13 attempts for 137 yards and three scores. Three different receivers caught a TD pass; Jack Swanson, AJ Hemphill and Jadyen Zacher. Hemphill added 14 tackles and a sack on the defensive side.
Highland picked up 67 yards rushing and a team high 11 tackles from Holden Morgan. Sam Hnizdill threw for 148 yards with one TD to Kyle Howard.
The Indians also had a much easier time in round one as they blew past Manual 50-0 and they’ve now outscored opponents 405-91 through ten games. Highland was forced to overtime before downing Hotchkiss 14-7. They ran for 239 yards including 190 from Morgan.
- History: This is the first playoff meeting between the conference rivals. Highland’s win over Hotchkiss was just the second in school history and snapped a four-game playoff losing skid. Their only previous win came in 2007 over Rocky Ford (32-3). Strasburg has 22 post-season wins in school history with 12 coming in the last four years.
#4 Meeker (9-1) vs #5 Centauri (9-1)
It would be a good argument or discussion to determine which of the two clubs scored a more impressive win in the opening round. Meeker lost standout junior QB Ryan Phelan to injury very early against Buena Vista but used a strong second half to move past the Demons. Centauri trailed Flatirons Academy 21-0 in the fourth quarter before storming back for a wild 28-21 decision. Now both teams look to build on the momentum to earn a state semifinal berth.
Braydon Garca came on in relief of Phelan and completed 15 of 19 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Kelton Turner also had a massive game as the sophomore ran for 192 yards on 13 carries and scored twice. His 45-yard interception return for a TD early in the third quarter also sparked the Cowboys comeback. Tevon Pelloni added 11 tackles and Colby Clatterbaugh had nine.
After being shutout for three quarters, Centauri finally broke through for their first score early in the fourth. Danny Brady then picked off a pass and returned it deep into Flatirons territory; setting up a TD pass from Eric Maez to Baron Holman. Later in the quarter, the Falcons converted a 4th and 13 on a halfback pass from Bryan Shawcroft. That set up a tying score from Taj Cornum who then scored the game winner on a 3-yard run late in the game.
Cornum ran for 100 yards and Mason Claunch added 80. Adam Chacon led the defense with 15 tackles, Claunch 11 and Zach Buhr 10.
Looking to this week, don’t be surprised if the Falcons defense tries to put a lot of pressure on Garcia who’s expected to get the start at QB for Meeker.
- History: Saturday marks the first playoff meeting between the Cowboys and Falcons. Meeker has now won seven consecutive games in the first round but they’ve lost their last two in the quarterfinals; falling to Limon each of the last two seasons. Their last quarterfinal win came in 2016 against Platte Canyon. They’re 30-28 all-time in the playoffs. A win by Centauri gets them to the semifinals for a third straight year and fourth time since 2013. A win also gets them back to five hundred all-time in the playoffs as they currently sit 14-15.
#2 Holyoke (10-0) vs #7 Colorado Springs Christian (8-2)
It’s been nearly two months since the Dragons beat the Lions 21-6 early in the season and now the two teams meet again in the Northeast corner of the state. To avenge the earlier loss, CSCS must find a way to slow down QB Miles Sprague who threw for 265 yards and two scores in the first outing. His scoring passes went to Seth Watson and Luis Chafino. Colorado Springs Christian did pick up 227 yards on the ground, including 137 from Peyton Brones, and they again will try to control the clock and keep the Holyoke offense off the field.
The Lions were pushed much more in round one as they had to rally past Yuma 17-14. It was a good win following a tough loss to Florence in the regular season finale where they gave up a 10 point lead to the Huskies. The winning score last week came in the third quarter on a short run from Rian Chavez; his only rushing attempt of the game.
Brones finished with 104 yards and Caleb Stockton 101 from his quarterback slot. The defense, which did surrender 229 yards rushing, was paced by Grant Banker with 10 stops and Brones with nine.
Holyoke gave up a very early pick-six to Rocky Ford but then scored the final 57 points of the game in an easy 51-point victory. They led 42-6 at the half. Sprague again had a big day with 312 yards passing and five TD’s on just nine completions. Blake Mosenteen caught four passes; including three TD’s and Seth Watson also grabbed two scoring tosses. Mosenteen also added 122 yards on eight carries but left the game with injury. His status for Saturday is unknown.
- History: The two programs have not met previously in the playoffs. In beating Rocky Ford last week, Holyoke scored just their second playoff win since reaching the state semifinals in 1998. Their last win before last week was against Platte Canyon in 2012. They had lost nine of their last ten overall. A win gets Colorado Springs Christian into the state semifinals for the second straight year and second time in school history. They beat Florence 13-10 in the quarterfinals a year ago. The Lions have won three of their last four post-season games.
#11 Wray (6-4) vs #3 Limon (8-2)
The Eagles were the only road team to score a victory in the opening round and now the task is to turn around a 31-point loss to Limon (40-9) during the regular season. That game is fresh in everyone’s mind as it took place just three weeks ago.
For Wray, the win at Florence last week accomplished two things. It snapped a three game losing streak and also avenged a loss to the Huskies in the opening round a year ago. Their running game returned to mid-season form as Emmanual Huerta (157) and Junior Arambula (79) helped the Eagles total 237 yards rushing. The defense gave up a 68 yard halfback pass for a score on the first drive of the game but limited the Huskies to just a field goal the rest of the way.
Limon made quick work of Rye in round one (40-6). They scored three TD’s in both the first and second quarters. Jeremiah Leeper had three touchdowns including two on the ground. Alex Carr caught a TD pass while Kory Tacha and Bradyn Tacha each reached paydirt as well.
In the rematch, Wray must be better against the run. Limon ran for 371 yards and four touchdowns with Kory Tacha (215) doing most of the damage. Kellen Kappell (56) and Leeper (52) were also effective in the run game.
Because they trailed early, Wray was also forced to throw the football 27 times which is well outside their comfort zone. A similar number in attempts may result in a long night for the Eagles.
- History: Limon has won the last four games in the series and all four have been decided by double digits. The closest battle came in 2017 when Limon ended up with a 13-0 win. The teams did not face off in the regular season from 2011-15. In the playoffs, the all-time series is split at 3-3. Wray also beat Limon 34-20 in 2008 and 29-6 in 1984. Limon downed the Eagles 42-2 in the 2004 state finals and that started a three-game win streak for the Badgers. They also scored wins in 2005 (15-6) and 2007 (23-21). Limon is playing in their 131st playoff game in school history. Since the state bracket was expanded to 16 teams in 1996, the Badgers have qualified for the playoffs each year except for 1998. Wray’s win last week was the 46th in school history and snapped five-game playoff losing streak. Before downing Florence, the Eagles last enjoyed post-season success in 2012 by beating Byers and Holyoke.