1A FOOTBALL – SEMIFINALS PREVIEW

1A Football Semifinals Preview
Two-time defending Strasburg returns to the same field and same opponent where they captured a title last year. They venture to La Jara for a rematch with Centauri. That winner advances to the state championship game against either Colorado Springs Christian or Limon. PHOTO BY SEAN MARTIN.

1A football semifinals are set for this Saturday and one matchup is a rematch of last year’s state championship game while the other pits one of the most storied programs in Colorado against a team making their first ever state semifinal appearance.

 

Colorado Springs Christian Lions (10-1) at Limon Badgers (11-0)

Saturday’s clash between the Lions and Badgers is the fifth time they’ve met on the gridiron but will mark their first playoff meeting.  All four previous contests have occurred since 2012 with Limon taking wins in three of four.  Playoff experience is also heavily on the side of the Badgers as they’re 25-8 all-time in semifinal games while Colorado Springs Christian has made the Final Four for the first time in school history.  Before this season, the Lions had just one playoff win in program history but has tripled that total by beating Monte Vista (51-30) and Florence (13-10) this year.  Limon is also 56-17 all-time in playoff games at home and will host Saturday’s game at Gaskill Field.

Last week’s win over Florence was the first time this season Colorado Springs Christian had to rely heavily on their passing game.  Averaging over 300 yards rushing per game on the season, the Lions were held to just 99 yards on 43 attempts by the Huskies.  It was the first time all-season the Lions were limited to less than 150 yards and it was also their first game without a rushing touchdown.

QB Caleb Stockton though responded in a big way as he finished 8-14 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown.  All four marks were season highs.  His biggest play was a 94-yard scoring toss to Nate Dunn.

Kicker Greg Olsen was also important in the win as he knocked through both field goal attempts including a long 37-yarder.  Olsen is now 4-4 on the season in field goals and all four attempts have come over the last three games.

Stockton may be called upon again as the Lions line up against a Badgers defense that has surrendered only 288 yards rushing in their last five games; and all five were against playoff teams.  They held Meeker to just 71 yards in last week’s 42-8 decision and limited Highland to only 47 yards in a playoff opening 33-0 shutout.  Jaron Carpenter leads the Limon defense with 63 tackles; Kory Tacha has 55 and Logan Marx 50.  Dominik Bratrsovski though topped the team with seven stops against Meeker and now has 40 for the season.  Overall, the Badgers have forced 26 turnovers.  Last week’s win was also the ninth time in 11 games that Limon has held an opponent to a touchdown or less.

That unit will be called upon to keep Peyton Brones and Dunn in check and force the Lions to throw the football again.  Brones is over 17-hundred yards for the season but was held to 65 yards on 26 attempts against Florence.  Dunn had just eight carries for 34 yards and has 884 yards on the year.

Limon is coming off a strong offensive performance against Meeker as well.  Kory Tacha ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns as the Badgers finished with 202 yards on the ground.  Cannan Bennett and Celby Hollenbaugh also scored.  Bennett attempted just seven passes but completed five for 147 yards and two scores.  Scoring passes went to Hauk Hubbard and Braden Sandersfeld.  Sandersfeld ended the day with four catches for 123 yards.

On the season, the Badgers have 2,766 yards and 45 touchdowns rushing.  Bennett needs just 88 yards this week for the Badgers to get past 1,000 yards through the air.  Limon has thrown a dozen touchdown passes.

 

Strasburg Indians (10-1) at Centauri (9-2)

Since this is a rematch of last year’s state championship game that went double overtime, intensity and focus should not be an issue for either team.  In fact, both coaches may have to spend some time during the week in practice or in pre-game, tamping down some of the emotion as both clubs will be fired up for this one.  Strasburg won the battle a year ago 10-7 to claim a second consecutive state crown.  The Indians scored in the first quarter but not again until the game winning field goal in the second overtime.  Centauri tied up the game late in the fourth with a touchdown but missed several opportunities to take the win; both in regulation and in overtime.

Complete stats from last year’s state final are not available but only a few key players return from the contest.  Strasburg has Michael Spence, Michael Burns, Wyatt Warren and Jon Walters back in the lineup this year.  Spence and Burns combined for 32 yards rushing while the trio of Warren, Walters and Spence finished with 20 total tackles.  Centauri welcomes back Taj Cornum to the backfield while Bennie Chacon, Adam Chacon and Tristan Crowther return to spearhead the Falcons defense.

Both teams head into the rematch playing maybe their best football of the season.  Strasburg has posted three consecutive shutouts including dominating playoff wins over Buena Vista (41-0) and Burlington (42-0) the past two weeks.  Centauri rolled past Crowley County in their playoff opener (41-0) and then was the only lower seed to advance from the quarterfinals as they handed Peyton their first loss of the season (10-7) last Saturday.

For Strasburg, last week’s win was their 10th straight in post-season.  It also marked their first game with their entire lineup on the field since a camp back in July.  Coming off injury, Collin Russell was inserted back as the starting quarterback and Trystan Graff received full-time action at running back.  And both made immediate impacts.  Russell tossed two touchdown passes including one to Graf.  Graf also set up a couple of touchdowns with strong running in between the 20-yard lines.

Tarek Robinson and Burns also played major roles in the win.  Robinson caught a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter and then followed up with a “pick six” to finish off the 42-point win.  Burns started the game with a 67-yard touchdown spring on the very first play from scrimmage.

The return of Russell and Graff also allowed Spence to shift back to his normal wingback position.  He responded with a touchdown run and also was a factor on the defensive side of the ball.

In looking at the stats from last week’s contest, it’s a bit surprising that Centauri was able to advance.  The Falcons had just 33 offensive plays to 65 for the Panthers.  The Falcons defense gave up 267 yards rushing, but forced four turnovers and made several other big stops in their own territory.  Adam Chacon was involved in a whopping 21 tackles while Zach Martin and Bennie Chacon finished with 13 apiece.  Taj Cornum ran for 161 yards and scored the Falcons only touchdown.

Centauri is in the semifinals for a third time since 2013 and won the previous two games; both against Limon.  Their overall semifinal record is 2-2 with losses coming in 1992 and 1993.  Strasburg of course in the two-time defending state champion and their 10 wins over the past three years matches their all-time playoff win total prior to 2016.  They are 4-1 overall in semifinal contests.


Kevin Shaffer

Kevin Shaffer

Kevin Shaffer is the founder and owner of the Colorado Preps Network which debuted in the summer of 2003. Kevin and his wife Lanette reside in Fort Morgan and are the proud parents of Lexi and Tyler.

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