It’s going to be a good couple weeks for the Patriot League. Although in football, the league is split into the East and the West, all four Class 2A semifinalists come from the northeast part of the state. These are teams that know each other well and know each other well from this season.

Both semifinal games are rematches from games that were played during the regular season. The difference this time around is that the stakes are much higher. A trip to the CSU-Pueblo ThunderBowl hangs in the balance. Eaton made it last year, but looking at the four teams still in the hunt, each of them is capable of winning this week and playing for a state title.

Here is a preview of the 2A football semifinals.




#12 University (7-4) at #1 Eaton (11-0)

As odd as it sounds, this will be the first time that University and Eaton and have played each other in the postseason. Eaton, of course, played its best football at the right time last fall to win the 2A title and it has looked just as solid this entire season. Last week, the team went on the road to face a tough Elizabeth and won with the same game plan that has been so effective this year. The offense was balanced and distributed among the players in order to be as effective as possible. Walker Martin ran for 85 yards and threw for 74 while Ryan Dirksen ran for 80 yards. Martin, Dirksen and Ryder True all scored rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, Eaton forced three turnovers as Trent Salberg intercepted two passes and Morgan Tribbett forced and revered a fumble. Taking the ball away from the Cardinals turned out to be an effective way to maintain the lead that Eaton had built early in the game.

Eaton edged University 27-20 during the regular season and the Reds need another victory over the Bulldogs to reach a second consecutive state championship game. PHOTO PROVIDED BY EMILY HOGSETT

Looking back at the Oct. 14 win over the Bulldogs, Ethan Florez had a monster game. He went for 202 yards and scored one touchdown. Florez missed a few games at the end of the regular season and was limited in his return against Elizabeth. If he gets back into his groove this weekend, Eaton could reach the state title game for the second year in a row.

University looked good early in the year but hit a bit of a skid when it got into league play. It turned out that the Bulldogs going through the Patriot West gauntlet was a good thing as they downed Moffat County in the first round of the playoffs before scoring an upset over No, 4 Delta in the quarterfinals. Greg Garza threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns and also led the Bulldogs in rushing yards with 60. He also scored a rushing touchdown and established himself as a postseason playmaker.

Kanon Padilla gave the defense a boost by grabbing a pick-6. Since freshman Ty Reed has taken over at quarterback for Delta, he had been a tough player to slow down, but the Bulldogs weren’t phased.

When the Bulldogs first played Eaton this season, Garza threw for 190 yards but he was picked off once. The team as a whole was held to just 23 total rushing yards. University led the game 20-17 heading into the fourth quarter, but gave up 10 points in the final 12 minutes and couldn’t generate any offense in the quarter.


#7 Brush (9-2) at #6 Severance (9-2)

Beyond Eaton, there were two teams that were standing out to win the 2A title. The Classical Academy and Resurrection Christian had looked dominant all year and seemed destined to meet in the semifinals. But Brush and Severance had other plans.

Heading into the game with Brush, Resurrection Christian hadn’t given up more than 20 points to a single opponent. It turned into a bit of a shock when Alejandro Maltos-Garcia ran for a touchdown and threw another one. Cesar Hinojos also rushed for a touchdown to give the Beetdiggers 21 points. Overall, Brush put up almost 300 yards of offense to get the win.

But that’s not how the game was really won. During the regular season, Rez scored fewer than 24 points just once and that was in a 10-6 loss to Eaton. The Beetdiggers kept the Cougars out of the end zone for the entire first half. It was a bend but don’t break effort as Brush never forced a turnover and recorded just one quarterback sack. Brush’s game plan was steady and methodical and it paid off.

In the regular season meeting with the Silver Knights, Maltos-Garcia completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw for just 82 yards. The offense generated fewer than 200 total yards and considering the Beetdiggers had fallen behind by 13 in the first half, they just couldn’t find a way to claw back into the game.

Severance is in the state semifinals for the first time in school history and face a Brush team they beat in the regular season 20-7. PHOTO PROVIDED BY MARIAH CROWNOVER

Severance suffered back-to-back losses in mid-October but those were to Rez Christian and Eaton, The Silver Knights have looked strong beyond those two games and are making the most of their first postseason appearance. They faced a big test in the quarterfinals against TCA, but it was a test they were happy to take on. Nolan Hertzke and Jaden Hoffman combined to throw for over 300 yards. Hertzke was also dominant in the run game, rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown.

Titans running back Cade Palmer had the day that everyone expected to have as he rushed for 160 yards, but the Silver Knights limited him to just one touchdown. With a 31-7 lead at halftime, the Titans had to go to the air which allowed Parker Gazdik and Caden Donovan to each come away with an interception. Overall, the secondary limited TCA quarterback Sam Guilez to 65 passing yards while completing just 33 percent of his passes.

In the win over Brush, Severance actually netted -12 rushing yards but still generated enough offense to put 20 points on the board. Hertzke threw for two touchdowns then got some help defensively as Brady Varney recovered a fumble for a touchdown. The Silver Knights might need another opportunistic turnover and score to cap their first playoff run with an appearance in the state title game.