2A FOOTBALL FIRST ROUND PREVIEW

While there are two regular season rematches in the first round of the 2A playoffs, all eight opening games are first-ever playoff meetings between the two.  Our preview looks at each game in-depth.
 

#1 Platte Valley (9-0) vs #16 D’Evelyn (5-4)

The two clubs met earlier this season as Platte Valley collected a 35-6 victory in week four.  14 opening quarter points got the Broncos off to a good start and they extended the lead to 21-0 by halftime.  Platte Valley QB Treon Wehrman threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns and added another two scores and 136 yards rushing. Zach Waite caught five passes for 67 yards and Alberto Perez added a score on the ground.
D’Evelyn QB Chad Dines threw for 141 yards including five passes to Cullen Flynn for 61 yards but he also tossed three interceptions.  Luca McIntrye led the ground game with 59 yards on 13 attempts.
QB play has been the key for both teams throughout the season.  Wehrman has thrown for 1,367 yards and added another 846 on the ground.  He easily leads the team in both categories and been involved 20 touchdowns overall.  Dines has tossed 21 touchdowns on the season and needs just nine yards this week to go over 2,000 yards for the season.
Dines will face a Broncos defense that’s intercepted nine passes including three from Sebastian Zehnder and two from Kaleb Johnson.  They’ve also recovered five fumbles.  Peter Flack tops the D’Evelyn defense with 104 tackles including nine behind the line of scrimmage.  He and the rest of the Jaguars defense must pressure Wehrman but not allow them out of the pocket on scrambles.
Platte Valley and D’Evelyn have not met in the playoff prior to this week.  The Broncos have won state championships in 2013 and 2007.  The Jaguars have five wins in post-season history including last year’s 27-20 victory over Basalt.  It was their first playoff win since 2011.
 

#8 Eaton (7-2) vs #9 Sterling (7-2)

This is another regular season rematch of a week four battle as the Tigers scored a 48-28 decision.  Sterling QB Bodie Hume was special in the win throwing for 338 yards and five touchdowns.  He completed 20 of 25 passes and the Reds defense could not slow him down.
Christian Rose caught seven passes for 141 yards and a touchdown.  Isaac Harris latched onto four passes and two went for scores.  Axel Henry and Jayson Frank also reached the end zone in the passing game.
Eaton was effective on offense rushing for 157 yards and throwing for the same amount.  Austin Coalson tossed four touchdown passes for the Reds; two apiece to Hayden Gavette and Jake Sandau.
Since the loss, the Reds have reeled off five straight including a league championship clinching 21-12 decision over Resurrection Christian last week.  Their defense has been much better giving up just 24 total points since the Sterling game.
Hume enters the post-season with 2,267 yards and 29 touchdowns.  Rose has caught a team best 57 passes with Harris at 33 receptions and Henry at 28.  Those three have combined for 21 touchdowns including 10 from Rose.  The Tigers only losses are to Platte Valley (42-21) and Classical Academy (24-7).
Eaton missed the playoffs last year but has won their last two first round games; beating Bennett 16-14 in 2015 and Lamar 41-20 in 2014.  The Tigers blew past Manitou Springs in round one a year ago and topped Faith Christian to open the 2015 playoffs.
 

#4 La Junta (8-1) vs #13 Pagosa Springs (6-3)

No drop off for the defending state champions this year as La Junta picked up another Tri Peaks league championship and finished the regular season with just one loss.  That came against Kent Denver (10-7) in a physical rematch of last year’s state championship game.  Another battle between the Tigers and Sun Devils is possible this year as they’re again on opposite sides of the bracket.
QB Jon Nuschy leads the Tigers offense topping the team in both passing yards (533) and rushing (868).  The junior has scored 13 touchdowns in the ground game and added six more through the air.  Wyatt Buhr, with 671 yards, is second on the team in rushing and he averages nearly nine yards per carry.  He did not play in the loss to Kent Denver.
Nuschy’s favorite target on the outside is Matthew Espinoza with 19 catches for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
Physical is the best way to describe the La Junta defense.  Burh is the top tackler with 47 stops but three others have at least 40.  Nuschy is next with 44 and both Hayden Honey and Vicente Ramirez have 41.  The Tigers have forced 15 turnovers overall equally split between interceptions (8) and fumble recoveries (7).
Pagosa Springs is one of the best stories in Class 2A football this year as they’re in the post-season for the first time since 2011.  In-between playoff appearances were just 10 wins over a five-year span and this year the Pirates improved from two to six wins.  After opening 0-2, the Pirates picked up four straight wins but picked up most of their attention in a hard fought 21-3 loss to powerful Bayfield.
The Pirates average 245 yards rushing and have scored 30 touchdowns on the ground.  Ty Kimsey has scored half the touchdowns (15) and leads the team with 887 yards rushing.  Cade Cowan has added 501 and Connor Aragon 464.
Aragon is also the top defender with 67 tackles.  Jesse Laverty is a close second with 64.  Trevor Bryant and Dalton Lucero each finished the regular season with 55.  The Pirates have forced 16 turnovers including three interceptions by Keaton Laverty and two from Javier Marinelarena.
La Junta grabbed their first state championship since 1958 last November.  They also won two playoff games in 2015.  Before their current two-year stretch, the Tigers had not tasted post-season success since 2000.
Pagosa Springs last won a playoff game in 2008 beating Manitou Springs 40-7.  They’re 13-24 all-time in post-season action.
 

#5 Classical Academy (8-1) vs #12 Aspen (8-1)

Pagosa Springs improved from two to six wins, but Aspen did the Pirates two better as they went from 2-7 last year to 8-1 and a playoff appearance in 2017.  The lone blemish was a 48-22 loss to Basalt in what turned out to be the Western Slope championship game.
QB RJ Peshak is a big reason for the quick turnaround.  He threw for 1,630 yards and 11 touchdowns last year but also tossed 16 interceptions.  He reduced that number to just six while increasing the yardage to 2,242 and scoring passes to 28.  The senior is also just three yards shy of 700 on the ground.  Peshak and the Skiers totaled 414 points on the season which is tops in Class 2A.
His favorite target is Noah Hollander who leads Aspen with 65 catches for 1,056 yards and 14 scores.  Max Ufkes has caught seven touchdown passes and is second with 33 receptions for 499 yards.  Two others, Jordan Hornburg and Trey Fabrocini, are in double figures in receptions.
Maybe a bigger concern for Aspen in post-season play is their defense.  In the lone loss to Basalt, the Skiers gave up a whopping 434 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.  Classical Academy averages 212 yards rushing and if they can control the clock with their running game, Peshak and the explosive Aspen offense may get limited chances.
TCA’s triggerman is also very good.  Cade Bethany enters the first-round playoff game with 1,316 yards passing and 381 yards on the ground.  He’s thrown for a dozen touchdowns and added another four on the ground.  Brayden Luft is another key for the Titans as the senior leads the running game with 908 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Jenson Hall has just 177 yards rushing but has scored 11 times on just 35 attempts.
It’s the second straight year Classical Academy went through the regular season at 8-1 with a single league loss to La Junta.  Last year, the Titans rolled Alamosa 33-14 in their playoff opener but lost to Kent Denver (27-24) in overtime in the quarterfinals.
Aspen has four playoff wins in school history.  They beat Platte Valley 21-14 in 2010 and Pagosa Springs 46-41 the year before.  Previous wins came in 1974 and 1968.  They lost three straight first round games from 2011-13.
Classical Academy has won three straight first round games dating back to 2013.  They have just four wins in school history including last year’s opening win over Alamosa.  They reached the state semifinals (Class 3A) in 2013.
 

#3 Bayfield (9-0) vs #14 Elizabeth (6-3)

It’s a tough assignment for Elizabeth in round one.  Not only do the Cardinals have a long trip but once they get there they’ll face a very good football team.  The Wolverines are one of three unbeaten teams in the field and have outscored nine opponents 359-49.  Only three teams (Aspen, Basalt & Kent Denver) have scored more points than the Wolverines and no other club has given fewer points in Class 2A.
Offensively, Bayfield has scored 23 touchdowns in the passing game and 26 on the ground.  Hayden Farmer has thrown every touchdown pass and finished regular season play with 1,479 yards passing.  Carl Heide, with 749 yards is the top rusher, but the Wolverines include several plays in that scheme.  Hunter Killough has 515 yards rushing, David Hawkins 415, Dylan Hilliker 344 and Keyon Prior 236.  Dax Snooks is the top receiver with 27 catches for 483 yards and 10 scores.
Elizabeth though should not be intimidated as they’ve lined up against both La Junta and Kent Denver this season.  They pushed La Junta a bit in a 21-13 loss but were taken out early by Kent Denver in a 35-0 league loss.  RB Reece Ullery is their key offensive threat.  Ullery leads the Cards with 1,250 yards rushing but was held to just 18 in a loss to Kent Denver and 92 in last week’s tough loss to Machebeuf (26-19).  They were the only two games Ullery did not go over 100 yards in a game.  The Cards are 6-1 when he does.
Bayfield has 12 post-season wins since 2010 and won the 2A state title just two years ago.  Their first championship came in 1996.  They’ve reached at least the semifinal round four of the last six years.
Elizabeth has seven playoff wins in school history with four coming in 2010 as they rolled to the 3A state championship.
 

#6 Basalt (8-1) vs #11 Salida (7-2)

For Salida, the matchup with Basalt appears to be very close to their conference game with La Junta as they face a physical team that wants to run the football.  In the loss to La Junta, the Spartans gave up 291 yards and four touchdowns.  Much of the damage came from the quarterback slot as Jon Nuschy ran for 150 yards and three scores.
Against Basalt, the focus will instead be on tailback Noah Williams.  The Longhorns have rushed for over 24-hundred yards as a team and the senior has about half of them (1,232).  Williams has scored 25 touchdowns and averages over nine yards per carry.   Much of his damage has come in league play with 962 yards in five games including 238 on just six attempts in last week’s win over Roaring Fork.
Williams though is not a one-man gang as the Longhorns offense also features talented QB Trevor Reuss.  The junior enters playoff football with 901 yards passing and nine touchdowns.  26 of his 57 completions have gone to Raul Torres (474 yards) but Griffen Jenkins (12) and Juan Rosario (11) also have double figures in receptions.
Overall the Longhorns tallied 391 points in nine games which is second best in Class 2A; trailing on Aspen (414).
If the game turns into a shootout Salida has more than enough firepower in both the rushing and passing attacks to not only keep pace but to get the victory.  Bridger Russell has tossed 19 touchdown passes and finished the regular season with 1,802 yards.  Sevrin Kaess is the top receiver with 43 catches for 756 yards and 12 touchdowns.  Shade Hadley (24) and Eli Smith (23) have combined for another 47 receptions for 747 yards and six scores.
Basalt has just one playoff win in school history beating Haxtun 28-15 in the 1979 (Class 1A).  They’ve lost six straight since but played very well in last year’s 27-20 loss to D’Evelyn.
Salida’s last playoff victory was in 2006 when they topped Roosevelt 26-7 in the 2A bracket.  They’ve played just two post-season games since; falling to Olathe in 2009 and to Platte Valley in 2006.  The Spartans have state titles from 1974, 1971, 1935 and 1933.
 

#7 Faith Christian (8-1) vs #10 Machebeuf (8-1)

The long-time Metro league rivals did not face each other last year and that may have been a good thing for the Buffs as the recent series has not been good to them.  Machebeuf has not scored against Faith Christian since the 2011 season and over the four meetings, the Buffs have been outscored 199-0.  In both 2014 and 2015, the Eagles picked up 44-0 victories; in 2013 the margin was 56-0 and in 2012 it was 55-0.  Faith Christian also collected a 65-20 decision in 2011.
We expect the 2017 meeting to be closer as both teams enter the playoffs with identical 8-1 records.  Each team suffered their lone loss to Kent Denver.  The Eagles came up short in an 52-33 offensive shootout while the Buffs fell 21-8 in a more defensive minded struggle.
Both clubs use the running game as a first option on offense.  The Eagles average 178 yards per game and are led by Jordan Abbott with 633 yards.  David Nagy is next with 382 yards and Ryan Muniz has 299.
Machebeuf collects 208 yards per outing.  Fernando Chavez is the top rusher with 719 yards.  Joe Paolucci is second with 450 yards and Darius Richards third with 334 yards.
The Buffs don’t have glittering numbers individually on defense but there is one stat that catches your eye and that’s turnover.  They’ve forced 16 turnovers through nine games.  Chavez has picked off four passes and Jack Farmer three.  Mark Crabtree also has three fumble recoveries.
The Faith Christian defense has produced 13 turnovers in regular season play.  Michael Osgood is responsible for five of them with three fumble recoveries and two interceptions.  Ty Ritter also has recovered two fumbles.
Faith Christian lost to Delta in their playoff opener last year and has not won a post-season game since beating Bayfield (40-14) in their 2014 opener.  The Eagles have a great tradition which includes titles in 2009, 2006, 2004 and 1998.
Machebeuf has not won a playoff game since winning a first round game in 1988.  They then lost to Trinidad 49-27 in the second round.  Their last appearance came in 2010.
 

#2 Kent Denver (9-0) vs #15 Resurrection Christian (5-4)

In rolling to their perfect regular season, Kent Denver was only pushed maybe three times.  They led Faith Christian 14-13 after one quarter before exploding for 21 second quarter points in a 52-33 decision.  The next week, they outdueled La Junta 10-7 and then late in the conference schedule they fought past Machebeuf 21-8; playing the game without starting QB Joey Licht.
The junior lefty returned to the lineup in last week’s blowout of Sheridan completing five of eight passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns.  His scoring passes went to Conrad Yost and Max Nelson.  The Sun Devils also used six different players to chew up 251 yards rushing with five touchdowns.
The Sun Devils have rushed for 2,370 yards through nine games and Seven Lindsey is the top individual with 11,64 yards.  The senior touched the ball just nine times last week and finished with 94 yards but ended a streak of six straight of at least 100.  His season best of 249 came against Ridgeview Academy.
Despite the nice offensive numbers, defense may be the difference for Kent Denver as they shoot for another state championship game appearance.  They’re big and physical up front with the tandem of TJ Jove (49 tackles) and Willy Boatman (44).  Love has 27 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and Boatman 15.  Together they’ve also collected 15 sacks.
Resurrection Christian came up short to Eaton in last week’s Patriot West championship game but still had enough RPI points to make the field as a wildcard.  Issac Crane is their key.  The junior threw for 241 yards in his first four games but has bumped that number to 619 over the last five.  He threw for 185 yards and a touchdown against Eaton but also ended with three interceptions.
Another key player for the Cougars in Zane Zuhlke who anchors the defense with a team best 98 tackles.  That’s 41 more than the next teammate.  Resurrection Christian has forced just nine turnovers on the season and may need some this week to upset Kent Denver.  Zuhlke also leads that category with three interceptions.
A regular visitor to the playoffs, Kent Denver has won at least one playoff game every year since 2008.  Included in that run is a state championship in 2012 and three other state championship game appearances including last year.
Resurrection Christian topped Platte Valley 30-20 in the opening round last year marking the fourth straight year the Cougars have picked up a first round victory.
 

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