State quarterfinals are set for this weekend in Class 1A football and three of the four battles are rematches from the regular season. As a result, we look back to the first meetings to find information that might give us an indication of how the games this week may end up. The fourth battle features Peyton and Centauri which could be the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
#8 Meeker (7-2) at #1 Limon (10-0)
Saturday marks the second time Meeker makes the trek to Limon as they visited the Badgers in week four. The Badgers opened a 25-0 advantage before the Cowboys rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the final 25-16. Limon won the rushing battle with 179 yards and two scores including 72 yards from Hauk Hubbard and 61 from Kory Tacha. Meeker threw for 1986 yards as Ryan Phelan connected on 16 of 28 attempts for a touchdown. Andy Kracht caught seven passes for 91 yards and Jacob Shelton four for 42. Limon received two touchdown passes from Cannan Bennett who completed seven of 16 passes for 126 yards. Tacha finished with four catches and both touchdowns. On defense, Meeker was led by Luis Villalpando with 15 tackles and James Amick with 11. Jaron Carpenter topped the Badgers with 10 and Drew Albers had seven.
Meeker had the more difficult time in round one as they edged Holyoke 12-7. The Cowboys trailed 7-6 at halftime but scored the only points after intermission. Phelan finished with 158 yards passing but also tossed two interceptions. The running game, which finished with 210 yards, had depth as six backs ended the game with between 26 and 51 yards. Kelton Turner was the leader with 51 yards and Tannen Kennedy 45. Turner, Tristan Wille and Kracht each caught three passes with Turner grabbing the only touchdown.
After missing the regular season finale against Holyoke, Bennett returned to the Limon lineup in their 33-0 opening round win over Highland. The senior was more effective on the ground as he collected 82 yards and two touchdowns rushing and hit just 1-4 passes for eight yards. Hubbard ran for 114 yards and Jeremiah Lepper 78 and both scored a touchdown; as did Tacha.
Defensively, the Badgers collected four sacks including two from Javier Zamora. Braden Sandersfeld also had an interception. Those two and others will again be critical as the Meeker passing game has become much better since the first meeting. Phelan overall has completed 63 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He has 1,677 yards.
The schools have met just once previously in the post-season but it came last season as Limon scored an 18-14 victory. Limon controlled the clock with 60 plays compared to just 45 for Meeker. Hauk Hubbard led the winners with 160 yards on 32 carries. Meeker managed 97 yards rushing and 108 through the air.
#5 Florence (8-2) at #4 Colorado Springs Christian (9-1)
Game one between the top two teams in the Tri Peaks was once sided as Colorado Springs Christian picked up a 31-0 shutout win. They led 17-0 at halftime and then put it out of reach with two third-quarter touchdowns. Going in, both teams wanted to run the football and each ended the game with 37 attempts but the Lions totaled 299 yards compared to just 87 for the Huskies. Joe Dunn led CSCS with 128 yards and a touchdown while Peyton Brones added 117 yards and also scored. Florence did not have a running back with more than 25 yards individually. Another key was turnovers as again the Lions won the battle 3-0 with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Brones led the defensive charge with 15 tackles, Rian Chavez had 13 and Elijah Burkett 10. Malaki Walters paced Florence with 10 tackles and Garrett Proud had nine.
Since the first game happened just two weeks ago, we don’t expect strategy to change much for either team. Both teams will again look to establish the run game and we expect a closer game as the Florence players and coaching staff should be motivated to put in a better showing.
The Huskies also have momentum to build on from a crazy win in round one as they stunned Wray 29-23. Florence controlled the game and led 14-0 going to the fourth quarter. Wray though put together a strong rally and took the lead (23-22) with about one minute to play. Proud then connected with Rayden Swallow on a 56-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left; pushing Florence into the state quarterfinals.
The winning touchdown pass allowed Proud to throw for a season best 156 yards and he also led the running game with 90 yards and two scores. Swallow caught three passes for 97 yards and added another 71 on the ground. The Huskies did allow 252 yards rushing to Wray and will need to button up a few things on that side of the ball if they wish to avenge the earlier loss to Colorado Springs Christian.
The Lions outscored Monte Vista 51-30 in their first-round game. Three touchdowns in the opening quarter gave Jay Kersey’s club a two-score advantage and the Pirates would not draw closer the rest of the game. It was again the one-two punch of Brones (172) and Dunn (169) that paced the offense as they combined for 341 yards and five touchdowns. The defense though allowed 372 yards and three scores so they too will be working to address some concerns on that side of the ball before kickoff on Saturday.
This is the first playoff meeting between the two schools. Last week’s win was the first in the playoffs for Florence since 2013. They last reached the semifinals in 2012 which ended a run of three consecutive trips to the Final Four. In beating Monte Vista, Colorado Springs Christian picked up just their second playoff win in school history. The first came in 2006 and was also against Monte Vista (21-20).
#6 Burlington (8-2) at #3 Strasburg (9-1)
Not only is this pairing a rematch of a regular season game this year, but it’s the also the fifth meeting between the two since the start of 2016 season. Strasburg has won all four previous matchups and the Indians have held Burlington to 26 total points overall. Included in the run is a 13-6 season opening win this year and a 21-0 shutout in the state quarterfinals last season.
Game one was won in the trenches as Strasburg ran for 244 yards and held Burlington to just 47 yards. Michael Spence was the difference as he ran for 173 yards and a touchdown. He also completed five of seven passes for 59 yards and the second Strasburg touchdown. That toss went to Tarek Robinson who caught three passes for 36 yards. Much of Burlington’s offense came from Braden Witzel as he threw for 118 yards on 6-15 passing. He also scored the Cougars only touchdown on a 10-yard run.
Spence has been the main offensive threat for Strasburg all season. He entered the playoffs with 563 yards rushing and 420 passing while combining for 19 touchdowns. The defense has also been stout; allowing just 82 points in 10 games and posting shutouts in four of their last five games. Wyatt Warren leads the group with 58 tackles, Jon Walters has 36 and AJ Hemphill 34. Walters has four interceptions, Robinson, Trystan Graff and Trevor Smith two apiece. The Indians have forced 21 turnovers on the season.
Since the first meeting, Burlington’s running game has been held below 190 yards only twice. They totaled 135 yards in hard fought win over Wray and were limited to minus 12 in the conference championship loss to Limon. They closed the regular season with 568 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns in wins over Wiggins and Yuma. Taylor Scott has 483 yards and six scores; Kaden Meurisse 473 and eight touchdowns and Witzel 334 and six scores.
Burlington used their physical ground game to beat Paonia 21-13 last week. Strasburg blew past Buena Vista 41-0 as the two-time defending state champions won their ninth consecutive playoff game.
The Indians are 18-10 overall in playoff football and has four state championships. Burlington’s win last week was the 75th post-season win in school history and they have 10 state titles. Last year’s meeting was the first time they’ve met in the playoffs.
#7 Centauri (8-2) at #2 Peyton (10-0)
While the other three meetings feature schools and programs very familiar with one another, these two do not have any playoff history and very little if any in the regular season. They have not matched up during the MaxPreps era which dates back to the 2004 season. The clubs are also without a common opponent in 2017 for comparison.
Peyton kept their perfect season intact with a 22-8 win over Platte Canyon. The game was played in heavy winds so the Panthers could not do much in the passing game. Trevor Walker attempted just five passes but completed three for 77 yards. Most of the production came on the ground as the Panthers churned out 226 yards with three touchdowns. Walker also paced that attack with 79 yards and two scores. Josh Gonzales picked up 70 yards while JD Hart totaled 41 with a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, the Peyton defense held the Platte Canyon ground game to 157 yards and just 47 attempts. Nate McLarty recorded 17 tackles and Hart collected a dozen. Gonzales, with 11 and Clay Sims with 10, also reached double figures in that category.
On the season, Hart is the main threat with 1,292 yards and 21 touchdowns rushing. Walker has thrown for 640 and run for 553. He’s been involved in 21 touchdowns. McLarty is a strong defensive player of the year candidate as he has 117 tackles this year including 22 behind the line of scrimmage. He also has three sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Centauri features two players that could be in the running for defensive player of the year in Adam Chacon (66 tackles) and Bennie Chacon (65). They’ve combined for 11 stops behind the line of scrimmage and anchor a defense that’s given up only 86 points all season.
The Falcons defense forced five turnovers and four set up touchdowns in last week’s 41-0 playoff opening win over Crowley County.
Offensive numbers for last week are not available for Centauri but the Falcons have the ability to move the football both on the ground and through the air. Taj Cornum is the leading rusher and Erin Maez had 11 touchdown passes through the first six games.