It’s time for league play. The Class 2A slate this weekend turns to a predominant league schedule. This is the start of a new opportunity for a lot of teams, teams that dropped two or three games in non-league player and get themselves back into the playoff picture.
It’s almost the start of a new season. And it is certainly the start of a competitive part of the football season that will have more pronounced impact on the playoff picture with every week.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY PAUL DINEEN / OT SPORTSCHECK
This week, we’ll look at a few key matchups across the classification that will serve as the start of league play and the start of creating a clean playoff picture for the 2A playoff bracket.
- #8 University at #4 Severance
- Platte Valley at Brush
- La Junta at #3 Classical Academy
- #6 Moffat County at #5 Basalt
- #1 Eaton at #10 Academy
Thursday night offers fans a great treat as University travels to Severance in a big clash of top 10 teams. The Bulldogs rattled off three straight wins before dropping their first game of the season two weeks against Eagle Valley.
Unlike each game prior, University fell behind early and had to battle their way back to eventually tie the game before losing 38-30 in two overtimes. Gunnar Ponzer and Jacob Cruz were alright in the ground game, totaling 146 combined rushing yards, but the Bulldogs had to lean on the passing game a bit more. Greg Garza threw for 145 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions which isn’t ideal in a one-score game.
Severance has shown its ability to come away with good wins in tight games. The Silver Knights beat Platte Valley 17-14 and Brush 20-7. Nolan Hertzke has been steady through the air, averaging 118 yards per game and has thrown six touchdowns to one interception. If Severance can get up big, they have the defenders to force Garza into more mistakes as they’ve picked off 11 passes this season with Caden Donovan leading the way with four.
Although Platte Valley fell out of the CHSAANow.com top 10, but it is still very much a team to keep an eye on for the remainder of the season. The two losses came against teams ranked inside the top five in Severance and Eaton and the Broncos rebounded with a nice win over Berthoud.
Brush won’t be so quick to roll over, however. The Beetdiggers have a deep rushing attack that has four players totaling over 100 yards for the season. Cesar Hinojos leads in yardage with 196 while Alejandro Malto-Garcia has found the end zone a team-high four times.
Both Platte Valley and Brush suffered closes losses to Severance which makes this Friday night matchup one that should be very competitive across the board. It is also the league opener for both teams which means it should set the tone when it comes to who will walk away with a Patriot East League title.
Another league-opener takes place in Colorado Springs as La Junta makes its way to The Classical Academy. TCA is a heavy favorite to emerge with a Tri-Peaks title as Cade Palmer has looked the part of an elite running back to perfection. In three games, he has rushed for 397 yards and four touchdowns. The Titans had to bow out of last week’s game against Mitchell but should return to the field in top form.
La Junta has a few solid wins under its belt, but still has some work to do to prove its place in the 2A ranks. A competitive game against TCA would go a long way in establishing that role. Jeremiah Martinez is the team’s leading rusher with 297 yards and Luke Garner has added 234 while also throwing for three touchdowns. The Tigers are often strongest when the defense is on point and that tone is usually set by Andrew Raso who leads the team with 24 tackles. If the Tigers can somehow slow down Palmer and win the time of possession battle, they could give themselves a chance to climb to the top of the Tri-Peaks standings.
Friday night’s 2A main event will take place on the western side of the state as No. 6 Moffat County heads to No. 5 Basalt. The Longhorns have a couple of wins over some solid 3A teams in Battle Mountain and Glenwood Springs and are flying under the radar as a top 2A team, something they likely don’t mind at this point of the season.
Cooper Crawford has been a tough back to slow down as he’s averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has found the end zone three times. His two fumbles could be some cause for concern, but the Longhorns have shown an ability for limiting damage caused by turnovers.
Perhaps a big disadvantage for Moffat County is that it has yet to be challenged in any of its four wins. The Bulldogs are winning games by an average margin of 41 points per game so this will be their biggest test of the season to date.
While the lack of tough opposition could be flagged as a concern, it could also be a result of the team being that good. Evan Atkin averages over 150 yards per game and has scored 11 touchdowns on the year. Ethan Hafey has been a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks as he has recorded six sacks on the year.
Saturday will round out a weekend of solid games as top-ranked Eaton makes the trip to the Academy. The Wildcats are freshly into the 2A top 10 after beating Prospect Ridge Academy 49-0 last week. Isaiah Eliot had another solid performance rushing for two touchdowns while going 5-for-6 for 132 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He is the kind of difference-maker that could lead to a big upset.
Of course, that task is much easier said than done. The Reds have been a tough matchup for everyone they’ve faced this season. They’ve allowed 14 total points which a testament to their ability to keep their opponents from moving the ball. They’ve also been opportunistic, forcing 11 turnovers so far this season.
Ethan Florez has been the heartbeat of the offense, rushing for 413 yards and four touchdowns. The Reds like to keep the game centered on the running attack as they’ve rushed for 14 total touchdowns. If the Reds can keep the ball on the ground and limit Eliot’s time under center, they can easily move to 5-0 on the season.