Through the first five weeks of the season, the Patriot West was the only 2A Football conference to have all teams at five hundred or better.  Now those clubs start league play in what could turn out to be the best league chase in the division.  The main event this week pits #5 Resurrection Christian (4-0) against #10 Berthoud (3-0).  #8 Eaton (3-1) has the undercard against longtime rival University (2-2).
The key matchup between the Spartans and Cougars features Jake Lozinski against the tandem of Zane Zuhlke and Daniel Kelly.  All three are big play performers on their side of the ball.
Lozinski is a dual threat quarterback as he leads Berthoud in passing (448) and rushing (377).  He’s thrown for seven touchdowns and picked up five more scores on the ground.  Zuhlke is second on the Cougars with 29 tackles and Kelly in third with 25 but both have shown the knack of forcing turnovers.  Zuhlke has three interceptions and Kelly two fumble recoveries.  Kelly also has seven tackles for loss.  The group overall is led by Tanner Applebee (37 tackles) and has not allowed more than seven points in any game this year.
Other players to watch for Berthoud include Danny Pelphrey, Miguel Sarmiento and Donovan Garvin.  Each has at least 100 yards receiving this year and Garvin is averaging 21 yards per catch with three scores.  Defensively, the Spartans get solid play from Brock Johnson (36 tackles), Ty Beaman (32) and Anthony Trojahn (31).  Beaman has picked up four sacks and Pelphrey three interceptions.
Over three-quarters of Resurrection Christian’s offense is in the running game.  They’ve churned out 775 yards there compared to just 252 through the air.  There is not an individual standout as they share duties extremely well.  A dozen players already have at least one rushing attempt.
Eaton has posted shutouts in their last two wins; beating D’Evelyn 34-0 and Machebeuf 7-0.  In between was the 26-7 loss to Platte Valley.  Alex Maravilla and Ty Garnhart lead the Reds with 29 tackles.  Garnhart has recorded 4.5 sacks and the senior has also recovered two fumbles.
Offensively, the Reds may still be considered a work in progress as several new faces are still adapting to their roles.  They rush for 144 yards per game but no individual is over 200 yards for the season.  The passing game doles out 120 yards per game with sophomore QB Scott Grable throwing for three touchdowns against two interceptions.
University has the difficult opening schedule as they open with Eaton and then tangle with Resurrection Christian.  Two wins there put them in position to land the league crown and a 1-1 mark could be enough to get them into solid playoff contention.  They won’t be intimidated by either team as the Bulldogs have already faced two-time defending 1A state champion Strasburg and Faith Christian this year.  They fell to Faith Christian 27-16 last week.  Offensively they created just 190 yards but allowed 215 on the ground.
The third game inside the Patriot West this week has Prospect Ridge facing Academy.
#3 Bayfield has dominated the Intermountain league of late winning all 15 conference games over the past three years.  They may again win the title but getting there may be more difficult as the conference starts play with four teams in the RPI top 18.  Unbeaten and #7 Salida (5-0) sits in fourth place with Bayfield #5, Pagosa Springs #11 and Alamosa #18.
The Wolverines begin defense of their three-time league championship at home against Alamosa on Friday.  The Moose were handled by La Junta (31-0) in game two but they’ve responded with strong wins over Mitchell (21-7) and Lamar (41-14).  The running game was top notch last week; churning out a season high 410 yards and four touchdowns.  Brendon Madril led the Moose with 167 yards and two scores but Ian Jackson (80) and Ben Wuckert (53) combined for another 153 and each reached the end zone.
Coach Dillon McNamee hopes to have a similar effort on Friday but doing so against the Bayfield defense may prove difficult.  David Hawks tops the until with 46 stops including five behind the line of scrimmage.  The Wolverines also have 16 sacks in four games including seven from Isaac Lorenzen.  Both seniors played key roles defensively for the state champion club from a year ago.
Hawkins is also a top threat offensively as he leads the reigning champs with 497 yards and four scores on the ground.  Hayden Farmer has five touchdowns passing and enters the week with 511 yards.  Keyon Prior, with 12 receptions for 230 yards, remains his top target and has two touchdowns this season.
Pagosa Springs heads to Montezuma Cortez needing a win to balance their mark at 3-3 for the season.  After playing the strongest schedule in 2A in non-conference play, the Pirates remain a strong playoff contender despite the 2-3 start.  Salida has the week off.
Staying on that side of the state, the Western Slope has at least four teams that are playoff worthy at this point.  #4 Rifle and #6 Basalt are unbeaten and both are favored to win league openers.  Rifle opens at Coal Ridge and Basalt is at Moffat County.  The Bears have beaten three 3A clubs and the Longhorns have allowed only six points all season.
Now the best game on paper in the league has Aspen visiting Delta.  Both teams are 3-1 but have gotten there in different methods.  Aspen has scored 38, 48 and 54 points in their three wins while the Panthers last three games have been decided by a total of 12 points including last week’s quality 7-6 win over Bennett.
That win pushed Delta to 9th in RPI standings but staying there could be difficult as their league schedule is heavily front loaded.  After dealing with the Skiers, the Panthers challenge both Rifle and Basalt in back-to-back weeks.  They ran for 225 yards against Bennet including 185 from Cody Sauve.  They limited Bennett to 144 yards rushing last week but this week the focus is on the Aspen passing game.  The Panthers must pressure QB Tyler Ward and play well in the secondary against Noah Hollander.  They combined for five touchdowns in the opening win over Meeker.
With no team currently in the Top 10, the Flatirons race might be considered wide open.  Faith Christian (2-2) should contend and they will watch with great interest the battle between D’Evelyn and Middle Park this week.  Both teams are 3-1 and that winner will step forward as a strong title contender.
D’Evelyn has responded from the tough loss to Eaton by beating Academy (26-19) and Fort Lupton (33-7).  Evan Willis is already over 1,000 yards passing for the season (1,059) but has struggled with interceptions.  He has eight compared to five touchdowns.  Thomas Lowry and Luca McIntyre are his top targets.  Lowry has 24 catches for 293 yards and a score; McIntyre has 14 catches for 412 yards and three touchdowns.
Middle Park is normally a run-dominated team but the Panthers are getting great production in the passing game this year.  QB Gabe Loberg has completed 30 of 53 passes for 416 yards and eight touchdowns.  With 185 yards and two scores, he’s also the Panthers top rusher.  Ben Kuhnel has caught 13 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns.
The Panthers have won three straight with the last two decided by seven points.  Their lone loss is against 3A Battle Mountain (14-7) in their season opener.
In other league contests, Faith Christian meets Denver West (1-3) and Arvada (2-2) meets Bennett (3-2).
#1 La Junta (Tri Peaks), #2 Platte Valley (Patriot East) and #9 Kent Denver (Colorado) could roll through their league schedules.  Other than the top ranked Tigers, the Tri Peaks league has combined for just six wins.  No Patriot East team other than Platte Valley has more than one win and Kent Denver’s strongest league rivals in the Colorado are ranked 22nd (Englewood) and 28th (Machebeuf) in this week’s RPI.
La Junta opens with Woodland Park with the best Tri Peaks matchup featuring Manitou Springs against Elizabeth.  Both clubs are 2-2.
Platte Valley is coming off a bye week and faces Weld Central in their league opener.  Sterling will still be a tough out for the Broncos and they open with Valley.
Kent Denver takes on Ridgeview Academy this week.  The Sun Devils outlasted Pueblo Centennial 34-28 in overtime last week.  Quarterback Joey Licht was 16 of 34 for 204 yards and four touchdowns.  Englewood is also 3-1 and they start conference action against winless Riverdale Ridge.  Machebeuf faces Alameda.