Great matchups and great tradition can be found across the schedule in Class 1A football this week.  League championships could be decided in the Santa Fe and Foothills conferences while annual rivalry games between Holyoke-Wray, Limon-Burlington and Paonia-Meeker are also on the slate.  We preview in our weekly 1A update.

Top Five

Holyoke (6-0) at Wray (5-1)
The winner keeps a share of the North Central lead with Limon if the Badgers also get by Burlington as expected.  A high playoff seed is also a factor as the Dragons hold down the top spot in RPI this week with Wray not far behind in fifth.  Both teams have a quality league win over Burlington over the past two weeks and based on those results, this one could be a very good battle.
Holyoke downed the Cougars 35-18 last week while Wray scored a 14-0 shutout two weeks ago.  The difference may be on the defensive side where Wray limited the Cougars to 66 yards on the ground compared to 226 for the Dragons.  Offensive production though may be in favor of the Dragons.  They threw for 320 yards against Burlington while Wray is coming off a tight win over Wiggins (16-13) where they surrendered 211 yards through the air.
The Dragons offense is led by QB Miles Sprague.  His 320 yard effort against Burlington pushed him to 1,077 yards for the season.  His top target remains Seth Watson with 17 catches for 339 yards.  He caught eight passes in the Burlington win.  Blake Mosenteen picked up 98 yards on the ground against the Cougars and leads the Dragons with 497 for the season.
Wray QB Tyler Collins had a big game in leading the Eagles past Wiggins last week; finishing with 78 yards rushing and 128 passing.  He also scored a TD in both.  They also ran for 232 yards against Burlington including 125 from Emmanual Huerta.
Flatirons Academy (5-1) at Highland (3-3)
The result could decide second place behind Strasburg in the Northern chase.  Highland came up short to the Indians 35-14 last week and Flatirons has them on the road in the final week.  Both teams are in position for a playoff berth as Highland is 8th and Flatirons 11th in the latest RPI.
Highland’s RPI is higher despite two fewer wins because their schedule is the most difficult in Class 1A.  Opponents have won a whopping 79 percent of their games which is far and away the best number for 1A clubs.
Both teams have played Wray this year with different results.  The Huskies topped the Eagles 14-6 in the season opener while Flatirons came up short 14-8.  Wray ran for 306 yards against Flatirons but managed only 152 vs Highland.  The Huskies were also better offensively with 317 total yards compared to just 192 for the Bison.
Rocky Ford (3-3) at Peyton (4-2)
The Thursday night contest is a big one inside the Santa Fe as the winner takes over sole possession of the league lead and gains control of the automatic playoff bid that goes with the title.  The loser falls squarely into the playoff bubble and may need to win out to earn a wildcard bid.  Peyton is 14th in RPI and Rocky Ford 19th.
Both are red hot.  Peyton has won four straight and Rocky Ford their last three.  The Meloneers may be a bit more battle tested as they’ve played three games decided by four points or less.  Every Peyton game, win or loss, has been one sided with all determined by at least 18 points.
Running the football is crucial to the Panthers.  In losses to Florence and Colorado Springs Christian, they picked up a total of 164 yards.  In four wins, they’ve gained at least 214 yards and are coming off a season high 430 in last week’s win over John Mall.  Brandon Hussey topped the list with 170 yards and three scores.  QB Colton Murray added 165 and a score while West Hart contributed 69 yards and two TD’s.
Rocky Ford hopes to have their passing game in full gear as they did in the 17-13 win over Crowley County.  Isaih Garcia threw for 230 yards and two scores while connecting on 12 of 17 attempts.  Four different receivers had at least two catches.  Dru Jones finished with four for 37 yards.
A Panthers win gets them very close to a fifth straight post-season bid.  Rocky Ford has not been in the playoffs since 2010 and their last win came in 1993.
Rye (5-1) at Colorado Springs Christian (5-1)
Records are identical but the Lions are in much better shape in both the Tri Peaks race and RPI standings.  They’re 1-0 in the league and tied with Florence (2-0) in first place while Rye dropped their conference opener to the Huskies two weeks ago.  CSCS is also 7th in RPI and likely in the playoff bracket while Rye is 12th and could use another win or two to secure their spot.
Colorado Springs Christian has won their last four games by a combined 180 points.  That includes a 56-6 win over Buena Vista in their league opener.  The Lions ran for 339 yards including 163 and four TD’s from Peyton Brones but the big story was the defense.  That unit created EIGHT turnovers including three interceptions and five fumble recoveries.  Eight different players were involved and Joe Dunn returned a fumble for a score.  That helped the Lions to a 42-0 halftime advantage.
The Thunderbolts ran for a season low 77 yards in the loss to Florence but turned it around for 307 yards in a non-league win over Dolores last week (33-6).  They had 10 different ballcarriers and had a chance to rest some key players for this week’s game.
Olathe (3-3) at Hotchkiss (5-1)
Both clubs are 2-0 in the Western Slope and tied with Meeker atop the standings.  The Cowboys are favored at Paonia so the winner of this one should share the top spot with the defending league champions.
Olathe has plenty of momentum from last week’s win over Paonia.  Trailing 21-12 to start the fourth quarter, the Pirates exploded for 19 fourth quarter points to score the 31-27 victory.  It was their second straight win since a loss to Centauri and kept them very much alive for a conference crown and playoff berth.  They’re 15th in RPI this week.
Hotchkiss sits 10th in RPI and has won five in a row since an opening non-league loss to Meeker.  It’s the final home game of the regular season as they close at Cedaredge and Meeker in the final two weeks.  They topped Paonia 12-7 two weeks ago and then blanked Grand Valley 28-0 in week seven.
Paonia rushed for 186 yards and threw for 76 against Hotchkiss.  Those numbers against Olathe were 133 and 83; so we should get a good battle on Friday.

Others to Watch

Burlington (2-4) at Limon (5-1)
It’s highly unusual for this annual battle to make the list of our top five games but the Cougars are likely out of the North Central chase because of losses to Wray and Holyoke over the past two weeks.  Limon meantime is 2-0 and a win keeps them tied for the league lead with the Holyoke-Wray winner.
This game also features tremendous tradition.  The schools have combined for 28 state championships and a whopping 166 playoff wins all-time.  Burlington has made the playoffs each of the past 33 years and Limon the last 20.  The Cougars’ streak though is in a bit of danger as they enter the game 17th in RPI.
The Badgers are 3rd in RPI and safely in the playoff bracket.  Their strength of schedule (.718) is second in Class 1A and will only get better as they have games remaining with Wray and Holyoke.
Meeker (5-1) at Paonia (2-4)
More tradition is found in this one as the contest has decided first and second in the Western Slope each of the past five years. Both clubs are also unbeaten against all other league teams over the same stretch.  The Cowboys are the three-time defending league champs and have won 20 straight in the conference.  Paonia last beat the Cowboys in 2015 as they were finishing off three straight appearances in the state finals with two titles.
At 2-0 and tied with Olathe and Hotchkiss atop the standings, Meeker is still very much alive in the league race.  That’s not the case for Paonia this year.  After two league losses by a combined nine points, the Eagles are more focused on RPI as they’re 18th in those standings.  And with the Foothills champion likely not in the top 16 at years end, the Eagles need to climb to the top 15 to make the playoffs.
Florence (6-0) at Buena Vista (4-2)
This is very tough rebound game for Buena Vista.  The Demons lost eight turnovers in last week’s loss to Colorado Springs Christian and must now face a top level opponent.  The Huskies are 6th in the RPI and have outscored six opponents 221-37.
Owen Busetti leads the Huskies offense with an even 1,000 yards rushing on the season.  He’s been over 100 yards in five of six games and has scored 16 touchdowns.  Overall, Florence is averaging 303 yards per game so the Demons must be very physical up front to grab the win.
Sheridan (3-3) at Platte Canyon (2-4)
Neither team is in the top 20 of RPI but a playoff berth could go to the winner as each is 2-0 and tied for the Foothills lead.  Platte Canyon is 23rd in RPI and Sheridan 26th but all conference champions earn an automatic playoff bid regardless of RPI number.
Platte Canyon may have the shorter route to the crown.  They’ve already beaten both Clear Creek and Jefferson so the Huskies are a virtual lock for the title with a win.  Sheridan still has Jefferson on the schedule next week so they’ll have work remaining even with a win on Saturday.
The Rams are also playing their second game of the week.  They outlasted Clear Creek 38-32 in overtime on Monday night and that win kept their playoff hopes alive.

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