While there are good matchups across the board, most eyes in Class 2A this week will be on the state championship rematch between #1 Kent Denver and #4 La Junta.Â The two collide on Saturday at Kent as the Sun Devils look to avenge a pair of losses to the Tigers a year ago.
Other matchups of note include #2 Bayfield at home against local rival and 8th ranked Durango (3A); #5 Platte Valley at home against D’Evelyn and #6 Sterling on the road to Eaton.
#1 Kent Denver (3-0) vs #4 La Junta (3-0)
La Junta’s 17-10 win last November gave the Tigers their first state championship since 1958 and capped off a perfect 13-0 season.Â Kent Denver ended the 2016 campaign at 11-2 with both losses coming against the Tigers as they also lost in La Junta 35-6 during regular season play.Â Round three is set for Saturday on the Sun Devils home turf.
Kent is coming off a bye week and enter the game averaging 51 points in wins over Prospect Ridge, Eagle Valley and Faith Christian.Â Coach Scott Yates has plenty of offensive weapons to choose from and all will be well rested for the rematch.Â The running game is headed up by Seven Lindsey (299 yards), Josh McDonald (289) and Charles McKissick (178).Â The trio has combined for 11 touchdowns.
QB Joey Licht has completed 24 of 38 passes for 382 yards with five touchdowns.Â The junior has also added four rushing touchdowns.Â His top target has been Conrad Yost with eight catches for 195 yards and three scores.
Defensively, the Sun Devils are also filled with big plays as through three games they’ve totaled 11 sacks, five interceptions and three fumble recoveries.Â Dylan Wells has three picks and a fumble recovery.Â Will Morland has 20 tackles, Willy Boatman 17 and TJ Love 15.Â All three are returning all-state players.
La Junta is more much battle tested this season having fought past Alamosa and Elizabeth the past two weeks.Â Each game finished 21-13.Â Jon Nuschy is the returning player of the year and again leads the team in passing (238 yards) and rushing (311).Â He’s been involved in seven scores this year.
Wyatt Buhr, with 259 yards and three TD’s, is a very good compliment in the running game.Â Matthew Espinoza is the top receiver with six catches and a touchdown.
In looking back at the state finals, Kent Denver has many more players returning.Â McDonald rushed for 108 yards and McKissick 47.Â Licht threw for 185 yards but also tossed three interceptions.Â Nuschy ran for 98 yards but all remaining yardage was lost to graduation.Â Buhr registered one of the interceptions and finished with seven tackles.
Saturday’s game starts a critical two-game stretch for the defending state champions.Â La Junta also meets #3 Classical Academy next week in the league opener.Â Wins in both could land the Tigers the number one overall playoff seed come November.Â They’ve won 16 straight games.
#2 Bayfield (3-0) vs #8 Durango (3-1)
Even though the two are in different classifications, this is a good rivalry because of proximity and the recent success of both programs.Â The Demons won a defensive 14-6 battle a year ago as they forced five turnovers to overcome just 137 yards of total offense.
Limiting Bayfield’s offense this year may be more difficult.Â They’ve racked up 139 points in dominating three out-of-state opponents thus far.Â QB Hayden Farmer has turned into a big play threat; already tossing nine touchdowns.Â Those scores have gone to six different players including two apiece for Keyon Prior, Dax Snooks and Dawson Heide.Â The tandem of Carl Heide (225 yards) and David Hawkins (221) also give the Wolverines the ability to move the football on the ground.
More big plays have been provided from the defensive unit.Â The Wolverines have registered 17 sacks and forced 10 turnovers in just three games.Â Ryan Phelps has eight sacks and Cole Wood five.Â Eight different players have picked off a pass.Â Hunter Killough leads the unit with 40 tackles and Wood is next with 32.
Durango is coming off their first loss in a 34-7 decision to Farmington NM.Â They also visit three-time defending state champion Pueblo East on the road next week so the Demons are facing a difficult two week stretch.Â Dante Marcum and Gavin Maestas are the Demons two best threats offensively.
#5 Platte Valley (3-0) vs D’Evelyn (1-2)
Don’t let the records fool you as the game appears to be a good one.Â Â Both teams have played strong schedules.Â Platte Valley has beaten 3A Lutheran, Eaton and Resurrection Christian.Â D’Evelyn is below five hundred overall but losses have been against top 10 rivals Classical Academy and Sterling.Â Despite last weeks’ loss, they do have some momentum as they rallied strong against TCA, scoring a pair of fourth quarter TD’s but falling short 24-21.
Chad Dines threw for 322 yards and three scores in the comeback but also tossed three interceptions.Â He must avoid turnovers against the opportunistic Platte Valley defense that’s coming off a shutout of Resurrection Christian.Â The offense, led by QB Trevon Wehrman, is averaging 36 points a game.
#6 Sterling (2-1) at Eaton (1-2)
A non-conference game but still very important to RPI standings and possible playoff standing.Â Eaton is favored to win the Patriot West right now but a win over Sterling helps their overall seed.Â Sterling is likely in for a battle with Platte Valley for the Patriot East crown so a win boosts their overall ranking as well.
The offenses attack opponent in different manners.Â Sterling is averaging just 97 yards per game rushing but has a very good passing game behind QB Bodie Hume and receivers Christian Rose and Isaac Harris.Â Hume has thrown for 698 yards and five touchdowns.Â Rose and Harris have combined for 26 catches, 542 yards and five scores.
Eaton meantime churns out 230 yards rushing and 37 points per game.Â Travis Cunningham paces the attack with 326 yards and six scores.Â Backfield mate Jake Sandau totals 231 yards and three touchdowns.
#5 Faith Christian (2-1) at Brush (1-2)
Not too long ago, the teams were regular state championship contenders and seemingly always met in the post-season and this Friday the series continues.Â Brush seems improved this year and has scored 21 points in each of their last two games.Â Faith Christian allowed 52 points to Kent Denver in a week two loss, but has surrendered only seven points in the other two games.
#10 Basalt (2-1) vs Battle Mountain (2-1)
No team posted a more impressive win in week three than the Longhorns.Â They handled Delta 34-6 and opened many eyes across the state.Â Jake Reardon sparked the defense with a 60-yard touchdown return on an interception; one of four turnovers forced on the day.Â Trevor Reuss tossed three touchdown passes including to Raul Torres to pace the offense.
Battle Mountain is coming off a 31-14 loss to Coal Ridge but enters the game above five hundred for Coach Jim Schuppler.Â Charlie Morroz (337 yards) and Camden Dooley (236) have each scored three rushing touchdowns.
REST OF TOP 10
#8 Alamosa and #9 Salida get some rest ahead of starting conference play next week.Â Each have a bye this week.
The Moose are 3-1 and survived a wild game against Trinidad 42-6 last week.Â Their league opener is home against Montezuma Cortez and that’s the first step in setting up a final week clash with #2 Bayfield.Â If both teams take care of business as expected, that outcome should determine the IML crown.
Salida is 4-0 and scored 109 points in wins over Buena Vista and Gunnison the last two weeks.Â Overall, the Spartans average 43 points per game and will face Florence in week five.Â Looming in week six is a challenge against #3 Classical Academy.
TCA bumped up one spot this week and looks forward to the conference opener with La Junta next week.Â The Titans are hoping for a quick start against Pueblo Central on Friday to get some rest for the starters.Â Central is winless and has scored just 14 points this season.
Delta, Machebeuf and Valley are three 2A teams that could face strong tests against teams from different classifications.Â Delta plays host to 3A Palisade (2-2), Machebeuf welcomes in 1A Holyoke (2-1) and Valley heads to 1A Colorado Springs Christian (2-1).
Palisade’s schedule has been among the best in the state and because of that they sit sixth in the first RPI standings of the season.Â Delta seeks consistency.Â They allowed just 10 points over their first two games but gave up 35 in last week’s loss to Basalt.
Machebeuf didn’t reach the 2A playoffs last year but still finished at 7-2.Â Included in the run was a 34-14 win over Holyoke.Â Fernando Chavez leads the Buffs with 242 yards and six touchdowns.Â Holyoke rolled Estes Park 45-8 last week and played #2 Meeker very well in the first half two weeks ago.
Valley scored twice on defense in blasting Academy 35-0 last Friday.Â Tegan Renken and Eli Knowles both returned fumbles for scores.Â Brandon Damian added 123 yards and two touchdowns in the running game. Â Colorado Springs Christian has won two straight since falling to Crowley County in their opener.
Aspen (3-0) and Weld Central (2-1) are two more teams very much alive for a post-season berth. Â Both teams play 1A opponents this week as the Skiers head to Parachute for a game with Grand Valley and the Rebels visit unbeaten Manual. Â More coverage of the games will be available in our 1A update.
RPI STANDINGS (PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 19TH)
- La Junta
- Classical Academy
- Coal Ridge
- Platte Valley
- Kent Denver
- Pagosa Springs
- Faith Christian
- Weld Central
- Montezuma Cortez
- Prospect Ridge