For the past few seasons, Bayfield and La Junta have been the driving forces in Class 2A football combining to win the last three state championships. Seeded first and fourth in the playoff bracket this year, the Wolverines and Tigers are again expected to challenge for the state title but the list of contenders may be a bit deeper across the board this season.
#1 Bayfield (7-1) vs #16 Montezuma Cortez (4-5)
The lone Friday game on the first round slate is a rematch of an Intermountain league conference game won easily by Bayfield 39-3 on October 12th. Seeding committees typically move teams to prevent conference pairings in round one, but travel and the fact that four IML teams made the bracket likely dictated this pairing. Bayfield won the battle at the line of scrimmage rushing for 237 yards compared to just 35 for the Panthers. David Hawkins led the charge with 150 yards and a touchdown. Hayden Farmer completed just four passes for the winners but two of them went scores. Keyon Prior caught both TD passes and also threw one of his own. The Wolverines have won 12 of their last 13 playoff games and two of the last three state championships. Cortez is 3-7 all-time in the post-season and making their first appearance since 2017.
#8 Kent Denver (8-1) vs #9 Faith Christian (7-2)
The second of two regular season rematches in the opening round finds traditional powers lining up against one another for just the fourth time in the playoffs. This is their first post-season meeting since 2011 when Kent Denver collected a 31-22 second round win. Faith Christian won the first two playoff meetings including a 21-0 win in the 2009 state championship game. Kent Denver topped the Eagles 23-17 in week two of this season; marking their 10th straight win in the series. The Sun Devils led 17-0 at halftime and then held off a second half rally. Joey Licht was the difference as the Sun Devils signal caller threw two touchdown passes and ran for another. He finished with 118 yards passing while hitting 10 of 13 attempts. He added 34 yards on the ground. Faith Christian’s Isaiah Kroll was also sharp as he connected on 10 of 14 attempts for 113 yards. David Nagy, with 73 yards, paced the Eagles running game.
#4 La Junta (9-0) vs #13 Berthoud (6-3)
La Junta won the Tri Peaks championship and is in the playoffs for the fifth straight year and seeks their second title over the past three. Berthoud is a playoff team for the second straight but last won in 2008; beating Centaurus 40-26 in the Class 3A first round. Saturday’s game will also be the first between the two in the playoffs. QB Jon Nuschy leads the La Junta offense with 1,172 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing and another 690 and nine touchdowns through the air. The two-time player of the year has amassed nearly 64-hundred yards of offense and has been involved in 88 touchdowns in his career. Ryan Malden (481) and Antonio Chavez (468) have combined for 949 yards rushing with 14 scores. Berthoud landed on the playoff bubble with a week nine loss to University but rebounded well in moving past Eaton 34-19 to close the season and clinch a playoff berth. Junior Brennan Garvin started the season as backup but has responded with 577 yards passing and 264 yards rushing on the season. He threw for 91 and ran for 106 in last week’s playoff clinching win.
#5 Salida (8-1) vs #12 Aspen (6-3)
Salida came very close to entering the playoffs with a perfect 9-0 record but they let a 14-0 halftime lead disappear last week in a frustrating 22-14 loss to Bayfield. The rally also cost the Spartans the Intermountain league championship. Despite the decision, Salida is in the playoffs for a second straight year and seeks their first win since 2006. Aspen lost to Basalt (27-6) in their regular season finale and dropped to third in the Western Slope but also became one of four league teams invited to the bracket. The Skiers are also in the playoffs for a second straight year. Their last win came in 2010. Almost 67 percent of Aspen’s offense is through the air behind sophomore QB Tyler Ward. He completed 142 of 265 passes for 2,202 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season. Max Ufkes (50) and Noah Hollander (47) each have 10 touchdown receptions and together combined for 97 catches and 1,671 yards. Salida counters with an effective running game and solid defense. The Spartans rolled up 2,541 yards on the ground as team with Vince Deleo topping the list at 1,025 yards. He also scored 16 of the 30 touchdowns rushing. Deleo is also the tackles leader with 87 followed by Hunter Clark (79) and Ludvig Myren (68). Those three also combined for 39 tackles for loss and Hunter Brashears added six sacks. The Spartans as a team recorded 24 sacks overall.
#3 Basalt (8-1) vs #14 D’Evelyn (7-2)
Both teams suffered frustrating late season losses that prevented them from landing league championships. Basalt came up short to Rifle in week nine but then took out Aspen (27-6) to finish second in the Western Slope. D’Evelyn ended a seven-game winning streak with a 21-7 loss to Faith Christian to close the Flatirons schedule. Defense has been strong for both clubs. Basalt allowed 35 points in the Rifle loss but only 25 over the other eight games. D’Evelyn gave up 106 points on the season but only 36 over the last six contests. Turnovers are also big for both clubs as the Longhorns forced 29 including seven fumble recoveries by Jake Reardon. D’Evelyn’s defense created 25 turnovers. Tai Kim led the Longhorns defense with 58 tackles while Henry Twitchell (49) and Trevor Reuss (42) were next and combined for 91. Reardon topped the offense with 1,309 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns while Reuss threw for 778 and ran for 234. Sullivan (89 tackles) and Noah Miles (84) are the defensive leaders for D’Evelyn. Offensively Evan Willis threw for 1,840 yards and 12 touchdowns. Five scoring passes went to Luca McIntyre (27 receptions) and four to Daniel Brady (17). Thomas Lowry led the Jags with 32 receptions and Enzo Franzese led all running backs with 847 yards and eight touchdowns. The programs are familiar with one another as they paired up in a 2016 playoff opener won by D’Evelyn 27-20.
#6 Platte Valley (9-0) vs #11 Delta (6-3)
There are two very good quarterbacks lining up in this one as Platte Valley’s Trevon Wehrman is hoping to cap off a stellar three-year run with a state championship while Delta’s Nolan Bynum is getting his first playoff start. Wehrman has over 76-hundred yards of offense in his career and enters the playoffs with 882 yards passing and 671 rushing this year. He’s been involved in 17 touchdowns but leads a more diverse offensive attack this year. Ernesto Rios has added 813 yards and nine touchdowns rushing while four receivers have at least 11 catches. That group is led by Josh Yancey with 19 receptions. Bynum has been limited to seven games due to injury but threw for 1,092 yards over his sophomore campaign. He opened the season with three consecutive 200 yards games and went for 162 two weeks again in a key win at Moffat County. Cody Sauve leads the ground game with 811 yards and six touchdowns and Skyler Kraal is the top receiver with 31 catches for 500 yards. He and Gabe Lockhart each have five touchdown catches. The Broncos enter the playoffs unbeaten for a second straight year and look for a deeper run than a year ago when they were upended in the quarterfinals by Eaton. Delta missed the playoffs last year but this is their sixth visit in seven years. They reached the semifinals in both 2013 and 2015. The clubs have not previously met in the post-season.
#7 Rifle (8-1) vs #10 Eaton (6-3)
If not for a last second miss on a field goal against Aspen, Rifle would enter the playoffs with a perfect 9-0 record and likely a few notches higher on the seeding ladder. Even with the loss, the Bears won the league championship by beating Basalt in the next week and then closing with a win at Moffat County. Eaton ended up in a three-way tie with Berthoud and University for second behind Resurrection Christian in the Patriot West. They ended the regular season on a down note in a 34-18 loss to Berthoud. The Bears are in the playoffs for an eighth straight year but this is their first visit to the 2A bracket since 1983. Eaton is also a regular playoff visitor having missed the post-season only four times since 1995. Despite the great tradition of both schools, this is the first every playoff meeting. Tanner Vines paces Rifle with 1,987 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. He needs just 13 yards for a second straight 2,000-yard season. Levi Warfel (822 yards – 8 TD’s) is another offensive weapon as is QB Hunter Stutsman (7 TD passes). Eaton Sophomore Scott Grable has thrown for at least 100 yards in his last four games and moved past 1,000 yards on the season in last week’s loss. Ty Garnhart (672 yards) and Gage Butler (451) anchor the run game and have scored a combined 15 touchdowns.
#2 Resurrection Christian (9-0) vs #15 Alamosa (4-4)
Alamosa was only 19th in RPI entering the final week of the season but an impressive 30-19 win over Pagosa Springs allowed them to spring into the top 16 and earn a playoff trip for the third time in four years. The Moose have not won a post-season game since claiming the 2006 state championship. Breaking that streak will be difficult as Resurrection Christian has been dominant this year; outscoring opponents 304-62. They’ve won every game by at least 19 points and allowed just one team (Academy) more than seven points in a game. The Cougars led Academy 39-0 before the Wildcats put up 24 late points in a 58-24 decision. Zane Zuhlke and Tanner Applebee lead the Rez defense with 69 and 65 tackles respectively. The group has 27 sacks including 10 from Peter Kuppinger and they’ve forced 27 turnovers. Zuhlke has five interceptions and Kyle Hecker three. Three others have at least two fumble recoveries. Alamosa QB John Lujan survived three interceptions against Pagosa Springs and threw for 186 yards and two scores. He hit Chad Jackson and Jose Manriquez on scoring passes. Kane Absmeier also returned an interception 62 yards for a score in one of the biggest plays of the season for the Moose defense. This is the sixth straight in the playoffs for Resurrection Christian. They were seeded 15th a year ago but knocked off Kent Denver and Faith Christian before a loss to eventual champion Bayfield (21-0) ended their exciting run in the semifinals.