1A State Championship Preview

Another round for Limon and Strasburg as they battle in the 1A state football championship game for a third straight year.  The Badgers have captured the last two matchups; beating the Indians 26-13 last year and then 13-7 in 2018.  Strasburg though is also familiar with lifting the top trophy as they nabbed championships in 2016 and 2017 and Saturday marks their fifth straight appearance in the finals.

Getting to a fifth consecutive state final has not been easy for Strasburg.  After now allowing a single point through six regular season games, the Indians have had to rally in each playoff round.  They fell behind Meeker 8-0 in the first quarter and then had to hold the Cowboys on a two-point conversion in the final minute to secure a 36-34 quarterfinal win.  And then last week, the Indians trailed Centauri 14-0 before scoring the final 27 points of the game in earning the semifinal victory.

Strasburg seniors Collin Russell (#5) and Trystan Graf (#22) get their third state championship starts on Saturday as the Indians again battle Limon. They’ve combined for over 16-hundred yards of offense this year. PHOTO BY SCOTT GERARD

Getting more players involving the running game has boosted the Indians offense.  Trystan Graff (866 yards) is the season leader but he was held to 33 yards against Centauri last week after running for 94 yards and two scores against Meeker.  As a result, more carries have gone to the likes of QB Collin Russell, FB Tallin Hall and WB AJ Hemphill.  Russell gained a season high 106 yards with three scores on the ground vs Centauri and has 145 yards and five scores in the postseason.  Hall has 234 yards for the season; but nearly half (106) has come in the playoffs.  He gained 62 vs Meeker and 44 against Centauri.  Hemphill had just six carries the entire regular season, but has had 10 attempts the last two weeks for 59 yards.

Russell has 13 TD’s for the season but has not thrown a scoring pass in the playoffs.  He’s still connected on 14 of 25 attempts for 147 yards.  Graf and Hemphill, with 12 catches apiece, are also heavily involved in the passing game but the Indians also look for points from wideout Jack Swanson.  He’s caught only eight passes this season but six have gone for scores.

Limon’s first option on offense is to also the run the football; especially with the tandem of Jeremiah Leeper and Kory Tacha.  Leeper tops the Badgers attack with 706 yards and is coming off a nice effort in the semifinal win over Wray; running for 144 yards and two scores.  He also gained 63 yards in the quarterfinal win against Holyoke.  Tacha is the reigning Player of the Year but injuries have limited him to just 15 attempts in the postseason.  He’s totaled 89 yards and one score but needs just four yards to reach 600 for the season.

Trey Hines and Brady Rockwell have shared time at quarterback this year and have combined for 510 yards and seven touchdown passes.  Hines has been the playoff starter throwing for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks.  He’s hit 10 of 16 attempts.

Limon TE Alex Carr has six catches for 158 yards in the playoffs including a crucial TD grab against Wray in last week’s semifinal win. PHOTO BY TERESA O’DWYER / OT SPORTSCHEK

Alex Carr has become a big weapon in the passing game as well.  He had just seven catches in regular season play but has totaled six for 158 yards with a key touchdown versus Wray last week.  Rockwell is the second leading receiver on the season (6 catches).

Strasburg’s defense is led by Matthias Brown (49) and Hemphill (41) who have 90 tackles between them.  Swanson (28) and Blake Coombs (21) provide depth on that side.   The group has produced big plays throughout the season; returning three interceptions and a fumble for a score.  They’ve also returned three punts to the end zone.  Swanson has four interceptions and Russell two as the Indians have created 15 turnovers on the year.

Ky Bandy has 62 tackles to top the Badgers defense.  Next in line is Tacha with 31 and John Jaklich and Kaysen Schmidt with 28 apiece.  Limon has forced a dozen turnovers including nine interceptions.  Leading that list is Carr (3) and Hines (2).  The Badgers also have a combined 36 tackles for loss and sacks.

With a tight game expected, kickers may also play a role on Saturday.  Strasburg’s Julian Valencia is 48 of 51 on extra point tries this season but has not attempted a field goal.  He’s just a freshman.  Hines handles the duties for Limon; booting through 27 of 29 PAT’s.  He also booted a short field goal last week to give Limon a two-score lead on Wray early in the fourth quarter.

Limon leads Colorado with 19 state championships all-time and enters Saturday with 95 playoff wins in school history.  They’ve won nearly 71 percent of all postseason games (95-39-1).  Strasburg is 56-4 since joining the Class 1A division prior to the 2016 season.  Three of those losses are against Limon including the last two state championship games.  The only other club to beat the Indians over the past five years is local rival Bennett.

The next matchup in the rivalry is Saturday morning at 10:00am.  The game opens up the final day of the football season and is the first of a tripleheader in Pueblo that day.  It can be seen through a live video stream at NFHSNetwork.com.

Limon has edged Strasburg for the state title each of the last two years; winning 26-13 in 2019 and 13-7 in 2018. PHOTO BY TERESA O’DWYER

State Championships

Most of the players expected to play key roles this weekend have been heavily involved in the last two state finals matchup.  Last year (26-13), the Badgers ran for 192 yards and three TD’s with Tacha gaining 128 and Leeper 63.  Hines also finished with 153 yards passing and connected with Tacha on a key scoring pass.  On defense, the Badgers limited Strasburg to 98 yards rushing as Hines earned eight tackles.  Carr and Tacha each collected seven and Bandy six.

For Strasburg, Graf ran for 65 yards and a TD.  Russell threw for 123 yards and Hemphill caught two passes for 57 yards.  Hemphill and Swanson each registered seven tackles, Chad Sutherland, Graf and Coombs had six in the game.

In 2018, Limon won the matchup (13-7) played in heavy winds which limited offensive play calling.  Tacha scored a touchdown in the third and added another in the fourth for the Badgers two scores.  Both came on one-yard runs.  Then a sophomore, Tacha finished with 40 rushing yards as the Badgers mustered just 110 overall.  He also recorded eight tackles.

Strasburg ran for 175 yards and threw for just 41.  Russell was the starter as a sophomore and hit four of eight attempts.  Graff scored the Indians’ lone touchdown and finished with 37 yards.  Hemphill caught two passes and was involved in six tackles.


 

LIMON BADGERS (6-0)

Coach:  Mike O’Dwyer

Outscored opponents 224-48

 

Regular season

W:  Yuma 40-0

W:  Highland 35-0

W:  Colorado Springs Christian 42-7

W:  Wiggins 42-12

 

Playoffs

W:  Holyoke 41-15

W:  Wray 24-14

 

State Championship History (19-8)

2019:  Beat Strasburg 26-13

2018:  Beat Strasburg 13-7

2007:  Lost to Akron 46-14

2005:  Beat Akron 35-0

2004:  Beat Wray 42-2

2003:  Beat Akron 28-12

2000:  Lost to Nucla 20-7

1986:  Lost to Fowler 48-15

1979:  Beat Lyons 47-21

1978:  Beat Lyons 33-21

1976:  Beat Stratton 14-6

1973:  Lost to Roaring Fork 14-12

1972:  Lost to Walsh 40-6

1968:  Beat Ignacio 86-26

1967:  Beat Springfield 27-6

1966:  Beat Springfield 47-14

1965:  Beat Springfield 26-12

1964:  Tied Springfield 13-13

1963:  Beat Springfield 28-7

1961:  Beat Center 61-7

1960:  Beat Holly 12-7

1959:  Beat Pagosa Springs 85-0

1949:  Lost to Hotchkiss 27-0

1938:  Beat Lafayette 6-0

1936:  Lost to Englewood 32-6

1935:  Lost to Englewood 47-0

1933:  Beat Golden 8-7 (OT)

 

STRASBURG INDIANS (8-0)

Coach:  Brian Brown

Outscored opponents 388-48

 

Regular Season

W:  Platte Canyon 41-0

W:  Prospect Ridge 60-0

W:  Banning Lewis 56-0

W:  Bennett 42-0

W:  Jefferson 56-0

W:  Pinnacle 70-0

 

Playoffs

W:  Meeker 36-34

W:  Centauri 27-14

 

State Championship History (4-2)

2019:  Lost to Limon 26-13

2018:  Lost to Limon 13-7

2017:  Beat Centauri 10-7

2016:  Beat Meeker 34-14

1990:  Beat Fowler 12-6 (OT)

1989:  Beat Fowler 6-0 (OT)

 

 

 

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