It’s a rare battle of unbeaten teams for the Class 2A state championship as both La Junta and Platte Valley enter the finals with perfect marks for the season (12-0). Both teams have rolled through much of the season with the Tigers outscoring opponents 414-82 and the Broncos by a 430-142 margin.
Each club though enters the state championship game off a tough semifinal win. La Junta knocked off Faith Christian 20-14 and Platte Valley survived a late charge from Resurrection Christian to down the Cougars 21-14. The Broncos defense held on a fourth down inside their own 10 yard line in the closing minute to secure the victory. La Junta led Faith Christian 20-7 late in the fourth before giving up a touchdown in the final two minutes. They recovered an onside kick to wrap up the semifinal win.
For La Junta, the trip to Pueblo on Saturday will mark the third consecutive season they’ve played for the championship. The Tigers won the title in 2016 by beating Kent Denver and then lost at Bayfield in the 2017 championship game. This is their tenth appearance in a championship game and they sit 6-3 in previous trips.
Platte Valley also has a championship pedigree as they’re making a fourth state championship game appearance since 2012. They won the second title in school history in 2012 but came up short in both 2012 and 2014. They’re 2-3 all-time in the finals with the first championship coming in 2007.
Quarterback play is essential for both teams feature one of the best signal callers in the state and each is a three-year starter with tremendous stats. Over the past three years, La Junta’s Jon Nuschy has rushed for 4,470 yards and passed for 2,480. He’s been involved in 97 touchdowns and his senior class has won 47 of 50 games overall. Platte Valley’s Trevon Wehrman has amassed 4,640 yards passing with 3,508 on the ground. He’s combined for 82 touchdowns and those numbers do not include the last two playoff games which have not been posted to MaxPreps. His teams have won 22 of their last 23 games.
The La Junta offense has attempted just 10 passes combined in playoff wins over Berthoud (40-6), Salida (20-0) and Faith Christian (20-14). The ground game though has created 863 yards including 439 yards against Berthoud. Nuschy has been responsible for 491 of those yards with 217 coming against Berthoud; 90 vs Salida and 184 including a 75-yard TD dash against Faith Christian last week. Nuschy has also scored nine touchdowns.
Others have provided help. Antonio Chavez collected 112 yards on just seven carries against Berthoud and Dillon Stevens reeled off a 51-yard run. Chavez added 34 against Salida and Ryan Malden chipped in 47 against Faith Christian.
Conversely, the La Junta defense has been stout against the run giving up a total of 177 yards in the post-season. They held Berthoud to 77 yards; Salida to 35 and Faith Christian to 65. They did allow 165 yards passing to Faith Christian but also picked off two passes. Nuschy had one and Malden the other. Malden also recovered a fumble.
There is talent across the board defensively but the group is led by Jacob Tafoya and Kody DiRezza. DiRezza had nine tackles last week and Tafoya seven. Tafoya paced the Tigers with six stops against Salida and DiRezza, along with Kyle Keck, had six against Berthoud to top the stat sheets.
Platte Valley’s offense produced 509 yards in an opening playoff win over Delta (45-21) and they ran for 408 yards in a quarterfinal win over Basalt (46-9). Statistics are not available from last week but the Broncos did jump to a 21-0 halftime lead before the Cougars put together a rally to make it close in the second half.
Wehrman threw for 231 yards and ran for 90 against Delta. He tossed five touchdown passes. Against Basalt, Wehrman totaled 56 yards with two touchdowns. Ernesto Rios was the star in that one as he picked up 264 yards rushing and scored twice. Rios also totaled 148 yards in the opening win over Delta.
One strong point for Platte Valley is their ability to score points quickly and in bunches. They scored 18 second quarter points against Delta and then put together 22 unanswered points in the third to roll past Basalt. As mentioned, they led Resurrection Christian 21-0 at halftime a week ago.
On defense, the Broncos have given up some yards in the playoffs but the group gets stingy in the red zone. Basalt finished with 303 yards but the Broncos defense forced two fumbles. They allowed 241 yards rushing to Resurrection Christian but again made the plays near the end to secure the spot in the state championship game.
Top players include Roberto Lara and Josh Yancey. Lara led the Broncos with 12 tackles against Basalt and Yancey had nine. Yancey was also involved in 16 tackles against Delta. Another player to watch is Alberto Perez who also had nine tackles against Basalt.
The two clubs have met just once previously in the playoffs with Platte Valley picking off a 38-6 win on their way to the state finals. Obviously, none of the players suiting for the game on Friday were involved in that contest as the seniors were competing in the seventh grade.