There’s a good chance the 2A playoffs will crown a new champion in 2019. La Junta and Bayfield have combined to win the last four state championships but the Wolverines did not qualify and the Tigers are seeded 14th. First round games are set for this week and we look at each matchup.
#1 Rifle (9-0) vs #16 Englewood (7-2)
A running game generating 327 yards per game has pushed Rifle to a perfect 9-0 record and to the top of the playoff seeding. The Bears won the Western Slope title; collecting impressive wins over playoff entrants Delta, Basalt and Moffat County along the way. In those three games, the Bears tallied 111 points and gave up just 44.
On the season, the Bears average 8.8 yards per carry with leading rusher Levi Warfel at nearly 10 (9.8). The senior tops the team with 1,500 yards rushing and 21 TD’s.
Englewood stumbled against Machebeuf 26-12 in a week nine loss but recovered to beat Ridgeview Academy 22-6 last week to land the Colorado conference title. They’ve not played a team this year that is in the playoffs. While the defense must find a way to get off the field against the Rifle running, the Pirates offense will need big plays from Mason Robertson and Nate Gravango. Robertson has thrown for 1,149 yards and 23 TD’s; 16 of which have gone to Gravango. He leads Englewood with 52 catches for 831 yards.
- History: The teams have met once previously in the playoffs with Englewood scoring a 13-12 win in 1996 (first round). The Pirates are in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and seeks their first win since 2006. Rifle is in the bracket for the 8th straight year and they’ve won two state titles (2004 & 1973)
#8 Classical Academy (6-3) vs #9 Basalt (7-2)
Last week’s 17-14 win over Aspen earned Basalt third place in a very good Western Slope that also features top four seeds Rifle and Delta. Those two clubs represent the only losses for the Longhorns. Offensive balance is a strong point as they picked up 1,353 yards and 22 TD’s on the ground and QB Matty Gillis threw for 1,039 yards and 8 scores. All eight TD passes went to Jackson Rappaport who caught 50 passes this year. Cole Dombrowski paces the running game (591 yards). The defense allowed 103 points and recorded 22 sacks. The unit also forced 16 turnovers with three fumbles scooped by Carson Jenkins.
Classical Academy likely lost a top five playoff seed by falling to Woodland Park (28-20) in their season opener. Big picture wise, the game didn’t mean much as the Titans had already clinched the Tri Peaks title and despite the loss, they’re still at home in round one.
In the loss, the Titans allowed 322 yards and four touchdowns through the air. They ran for 164 yards including 154 and two scores from Cade Palmer. Palmer has rushed for 1,238 yards and 12 TD’s for the season.
- History: The teams have not met previously in the playoffs. Basalt is in the playoffs for the fourth straight year and have won their last two first round games. Classical Academy missed the playoffs last year but won first round games each year from 2015-17.
#4 Delta (8-1) vs #13 Pagosa Springs (5-4)
Other than the 47-29 loss to Rifle, Delta has dominated opponents this year outscoring them 356-28. That includes quality wins over playoff entrants Bennett, Basalt, Moffat County and Pagosa Springs. QB Nolan Bynum directs the offense and finished the regular season with 1,688 yards passing and 25 TD’s. Hunter Hughes leads the receiving group with 31 catches for 12 TD’s. Nathan Workman is next with 28 catches including seven scores. The running game averages 162 per game. On defense, the Panthers have created 21 turnovers with 21 sacks. James Goff is the top tackler (62) and Brandon Butler has 16 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Pagosa Springs used important late season wins over Bayfield (42-0) and Alamosa (33-22) to land the Intermountain championship. They’ve played a strong schedule as all four losses are against teams in the playoffs; Durango, La Junta, Basalt and Moffat County. The Pirates also scored a nice win over 1A power Centauri. Paden Bailey (1,031 yards rushing) and Grant Aucoin (633 yards passing) are the offensive leaders. Mitch Lewis has six scores from his wide receiver spot.
- History: Delta is in the playoffs for the second straight year and 7th time since 2012. They reached the 3A semifinals in both 205 and 16. Their lone state championship came in 1960. Pagosa is in the bracket for the second time in three years. Their last playoff win came in 2008 when they beat Manitou Springs 40-7. The only head-to-head meeting came in 1984 as Delta blanked the Pirates 22-0 in the first round.
#5 Faith Christian (8-1) vs #12 Elizabeth (6-3)
The Eagles carry an eight game winning streak and have relied on a power running game and physical defense to that success. They’ve forced a whopping 32 turnovers on the season and several of those have set up short fields for the offense. Michael Osgood has four interceptions and led the Eagles with 54 tackles. Other big plays came from Quincey Hansen (13) and Garrett Everitt (9) who combined for 22 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Seth Sperger is another ballhawk as he tied for second in the state with six interceptions.
On offense, the duo of Erick Granados (1,164 yards) and Edorado Castaneda (769) combined for 18 touchdowns and helped the running game churn out 288 yards per game.
Elizabeth looks to regain some momentum following a 35-0 loss to Lamar to close the regular season. They also suffered a tough 10-9 loss to Classical Academy that cost them a chance at the Tri Peaks crown. The Cards will need a big game from QB Vincent Weber who threw for 705 yards and seven scores through his first seven games.
- History: This is the first playoff meeting between the two schools. Faith Christian is playoff bound for the 17th straight year. They’ve won four state titles overall with their most recent coming in 2009 when they blanked Kent Denver 21-0. Faith reached the semifinals last year before falling to eventual state champion La Junta 20-14. Elizabeth is in the bracket for just the second time since 2013. They captured the 2010 state championship and picked up four of their seven all-time wins that season.
#2 Sterling (8-1) vs #15 Moffat County (5-4)
After not making the playoffs last year, Sterling went unbeaten in Colorado this season to earn the number two overall seed. Their lone loss came against Scottsbluff which is regarded as a top five in Nebraska regardless of class. The Tigers have four wins over playoff teams as they fought pass Resurrection Christian, Eaton, Classical Academy and Platte Valley during the season.
Sterling’s defense gave up just 106 points this year and forced 21 turnovers. Jackson Keil picked off four passes and Drew Book recovered three fumbles. Book also totaled 16 tackles for loss and Zach Bustmente topped the team with 54 stops overall.
Moffat County placed fifth in a very good Western Slope conference and limps into the bracket a bit. They were 4-0 in non-league play but then went just 1-4 in the conference with lopsided losses to Basalt (49-7), Aspen (28-0), Delta (52-0) and Rifle (41-6). Their best win came against Pagosa Springs (21-16) to close the non-league schedule.
Ryan Peck threw for over 11-hundred yards but completed just 39 percent of his passes. He threw eight touchdown passes including three to Dario Alexander who finished with 28 catches for 405 yards. The running game averages 122 per night.
- History: This is the first playoff meeting between the two programs. Moffat County makes their first post-season visit since 2015. Their last win came in 2004 when they topped Pueblo County 42-7 in Class 3A. Sterling last won in 2016 when they handled Manitou Springs 55-22 in the first round. The Tigers also reached the 2004 state finals.
#7 Lamar (7-2) vs #10 Eaton (6-3)
A battle of runner-up teams as Lamar placed second in the Tri Peaks and Eaton ended up second in the Patriot West. The Reds fell short to Resurrection Christian (27-20) when they surrendered a kickoff return for TD after scoring the tying touchdown in the final minute. Lamar fell behind TCA by 21 points in the first quarter and after battling back tie the game in the third, lost 45-28.
A higher scoring game favors Lamar. The Savages are just 19 points shy of averaging for points per game. Zane Rankin threw for 1,548 yards and 20 TD’s with Blake Buxton catching 36 passes for 715 yards and eight scores. Walker Kee is a dual threat. He leads Lamar with 916 yards and 9 TD’s rushing and also caught 26 passes for seven scores.
Eaton wants to control clock with a balanced running game. Gage Butler (461 yards), Ethan Florez (382) and Salvador Rojas (341) all get carries during a game. QB Scott Grable is also a factor on the ground. He was fourth with 261 yards and three scores. The junior also threw for 693 yards and six TD’s despite missing two games due to injury.
Lamar has won four straight including a win over rival La Junta (20-14) in the annual Whistle Game. They closed the season by blasting Elizabeth 35-0. Eaton is 0-3 against playoff teams but those losses are by a combined 28 points. In addition to the Resurrection Christian loss, they also came up short to Sterling (7-0) and Platte Valley (14-0)
- History: Lamar has qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2014. They have 15 wins all-time with the last coming in 1995 as they beat Lewis Palmer 24-7 in the 3A state quarterfinals. Eaton is making a third straight appearance and fifth in six years. They won five straight first round games before falling to Rifle 27-0 last season. The only meeting between the two programs came in 2014 where Eaton scored a 41-20 first round win.
#6 Platte Valley (7-2) vs #11 Bennett (6-3)
Another battle of second place teams as Platte Valley lost to Sterling inside the Patriot East and Bennett was beaten by Faith Christian in the Flatirons.
Platte Valley’s second loss came against likely 3A playoff participant Lutheran. They scored wins over playoff entrants Elizabeth and Eaton. Bennett is 0-3 against teams in the bracket. In addition to the Faith Christian, they were shutout by Strasburg (1A) and Delta.
Mac Copeland is the leading rusher (913 yards – 11 TD’s) for Bennett and must be effective for the Tigers to advance. He helps the running game averaging 231 yards per game.
Josh Yancey is the top offensive threat for Platte Valley. He leads the teams in rushing (1,112 yards) and has caught ten passes. He’s been involved in 15 touchdowns. For good measure, Yancey is also the top tackler with 102 including 11 behind the line of scrimmage.
- History: Saturday marks the third playoff meeting of the two schools. Platte Valley has won both as they beat Bennett in 2014 (30-15) and 2013 (48-11). The Broncos are making their 14th consecutive playoff berth. They lost in the finals to La Junta last season but won state titles in 20013 and 2007. Bennett is 7-17 all-time in the playoffs. They reached the 1A semifinals in both 2016 and 2017. This is their first 2A appearance since 2015.
#3 Resurrection Christian (8-1) vs #14 La Junta (5-4)
Both teams have very good defenses but the Cougars have a major advantage on the offensive side and that could carry them past the defending state champions. Neither team has given up more than 85 points on the season but the Cougars have scored 358 points to just 159 for the Tigers. La Junta also scored almost one third of that total in last week’s 54-0 blowout of Manitou Springs.
Two names to remember for the Cougars are Buck Coors and Tanner Applebee. Coors led the team in rushing (614 yards) from his quarterback spot and also threw for 1,080 yards. He threw 14 TD passes and ran for 13 more. Applebee must be blocked for La Junta to have any success. He topped Rez with 93 tackles with 33 of them behind the line of scrimmage. He also recovered four fumbles. Resurrection Christian forced 26 turnovers overall including six interceptions from Eddie Lemos.
La Junta’s defense held six of nine opponents to single digits this year and gave up 84 points overall. The Cougars held Sterling to 13 points, Faith Christian to 19 and Eaton to 20.
- History: La Junta is in the 2A playoffs for the sixth straight. They are the defending state champions and also won the 2016 title. Overall, they have six state crowns with 42 all-time wins. Resurrection Christian has made the semifinals four times in the last five years. They lost to Platte Valley 21-14 last year and Bayfield 21-0 the year before. Their all-time playoff record is 11-7. This is the first post-season meeting between the clubs.