After working through a couple of weeks with several lopsided results, Class 1A finally sees some to the top teams in the division start to square off. The main feature is #3 Meeker at #9 Hotchkiss as that winner should land the top spot in the Western Slope chase. #4 Florence also invades #9 Peyton in a second top 10 battle on the schedule. PHOTO BY MATT HALL.
Meeker and Hotchkiss finished one-two in the Western Slope last year and Saturday’s clash is their third meeting in two years. Meeker took both games a year ago; downing the Bulldogs in both non-conference play (28-7) and the league matchup (42-26). The passing game was the difference as Ryan Phelan threw for 515 yards in the two Meeker wins. For Hotchkiss to score the win this week, they will need more pressure on the senior QB and better coverage in the secondary.
Phelan has been sharp this year; hitting 23 of 45 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns. Yardage has come in chunks as both Kelton Turner (28 yards per catch) and Spud White (25) have turned in many big plays. Together, they’ve caught 14 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns. Jeremy Woodward adds plenty of balance and experience with 231 yards and three scores rushing.
Part of defending the Meeker passing game is for Hotchkiss to control time of possession with their running game. The Bulldogs ran for 175 yards in the first game a year ago but upped that to 326 in the conference tilt. This year, they’re averaging 246 yards per game on the ground in blowing past Dolores (52-0) and Paonia (51-14). Mordecai White tops the list with 196 yards and four touchdowns with Yahir Chavez next in line with 129 yards and two scores. The Bulldogs have attempted just eight passes all season and haven’t had to throw as they’ve developed commanding leads very early.
Both defenses also have standouts who can make big plays. Traycer Hall has 24 tackles to pace Hotchkiss and five others have at least 10 stops. A total of 21 tackles have come behind the line of scrimmage. Against the pass, the Bulldogs have picked up five sacks and intercepted four passes including two from freshman Hayden Moreno.
Jeremy Woodward leads Meeker with 14 tackles followed by Colby Clatterbaugh with 13. Two others have at least ten.
The trenches will determine the winner of Florence and Peyton. Both teams want to run the football and then rely on a stingy defense to get wins.
The strategy worked to perfection for Peyton last week as they blanked Rye 43-0. The Panthers ran for 338 yards in the win and allowed just 94 total yards to the Thunderbolts. Brandon Hussey ran for 137 yards with four touchdowns and Robert Graham added 80 yards and three more scores in the win.
The shutout also kept Peyton’s defensive scoreless streak intact as they’ve not allowed a point through two games. Opponents have totaled just 206 yards overall. Both numbers will be tested in a big way on Thursday as Florence enters the week with 572 yards rushing in two games and averaging over 10 yards per carry as a team.
The main running backs for Florence are also fresh thanks to easy wins over Gunnison (32-8) and Rocky Ford (48-6). Owen Busetti is normally the workhorse but he has just 13 rushing attempts this year. He’s gained a team-high 194 yards with four touchdowns. Jacob Kennedy has 166 yards and three TD’s on 15 attempts while Lincoln Nix has added 106 yards on 14 carries.
Hussey is also Peyton’s leader on defense with 25 tackles. Zak Cobb has 21 and Dresden Howeth 19. The Panthers have forced three turnovers and will look to increase that number this week.
Regardless of the outcome, the Tri Peaks chase is still up for grabs as both teams still have a game left with top 10 rival Colorado Springs Christian. The winner though will gain a nice advantage in the race for one of the eight playoff berths.
Saturday features an interesting matchup of #2 Strasburg and Banning Lewis. Both teams are 2-0 but are in very different stages of their programs. Banning Lewis is playing just their third game in school history while Strasburg is coming off four consecutive trips to the state finals. Because of that experience and history, Strasburg is favored but the game will serve as an excellent gauge on where the Banning Lewis program is; just three games into varsity football.
Strasburg has beaten Platte Canyon (41-0) and Prospect Ridge (60-0) with ease and has their annual rivalry game with Bennett on tap this week. Veterans lead their offense with seniors Trystan Graff (291 yards – 5 TD’s rushing) and Collin Russell (178 yards passing – 3 TD’s) as the top threats. Neither has played many snaps as the Indians have built early leads.
The Stallions picked off Jefferson (27-16) in their first varsity game and then blew past Pinnacle (50-0) last week. The Early brothers have led the club in the two wins. Junior Nate has already intercepted six passes and freshman Ben has caught four touchdown passes. QB Kaden Levi has thrown for 250 yards and six scores overall and Ricky Fletcher leads the running game with 182 yards and two touchdowns.
#1 Limon and #7 Wray both lost their week three opponents due to COVID and each has stepped up a level (or two) to find a new opponent. Limon was slated to face long-time rival Burlington but will now travel to 2A Alamosa for a six o’clock kickoff on Friday. Wray had Jefferson on the slate but instead will host 3A Niwot on Saturday at one o’clock.
Limon’s key is their running game as they look to control the football and keep Alamosa’s spread out passing game see the field. The strategy was used by Pagosa Springs last week as the Pirate rang up 344 yards in their win over Alamosa. And the strategy fits the M-O of the Limon offense as they’ve collected 594 yards rushing in their first two games; averaging seven yards per carry.
Kory Tacha, with 293 yards and seven TD’s, leads the Badgers running game but they feature another talented option in Jeremiah Leeper. The junior has 203 yards and a touchdown. The duo runs behind a veteran offensive line that returns four of five starters and the tight end from last year’s state championship team.
Niwot is winless (0-2) but will be a better test for Wray than Jefferson simply based on size and numbers. The Cougars nearly pulled out a win last week but fell to Riverdale Ridge in overtime (14-7). Their main threat is QB Ayden Barko. He threw for 178 yards against Holy Family in week one and added 99 against Riverdale Ridge.
The QB position is also the strength for Wray as Tyler Collins has generated nearly 800 yards of offense in their first two games (Burlington & Wiggins). He’s completed 27 of 36 passes for 424 yards and four touchdowns and added 328 yards rushing with five more scores in the run game. And by the way, Collins also tops the Eagles with 17 tackles.
Junior Arambula has 14 receptions for 173 yards and two scores. Tell Wade has five tackles on defense; all behind the line of scrimmage. He’s also registered three sacks.
#5 Centauri has beaten their first two opponents by a combined score of 123-7. A similar result is likely this week as they host a Del Norte squad that’s been outscored 81-0 in their first two games. It’s another mismatch for the Falcons and looking at their schedule, we’re not sure where they get tested in the regular season.
Both #7 Holyoke and #8 Colorado Springs Christian are back in action after not playing last week. Holyoke was scheduled to play Burlington but took the week off. Now they face Wiggins. Colorado Springs Christian picked up a forfeit win over Trinidad as the Miners could not play because of ineligble players. Since it was not COVID related, the game is recorded as a forfeit instead of a no-contest. The Lions this week go to Rye.
Wiggins is coming off the tough loss to Wray as they couldn’t carry momentum from the week one win over Bennett. Rye is also seeking a better effort after the shutout loss to Peyton. The Thunderbolts, who still have a game left with Florence, probably need a win this week to stay in the playoff discussion.