Week one of conference play is now complete and teams shift their focus to round two. Our 2A preview for the week centers on matchups between Basalt-Aspen (Western Slope) and Sterling-Platte Valley (Patriot East) as winners there should end up as league champions. There are also a few other matchups featuring winners from last week.
Basalt (1-0) at Aspen (1-0)
Coal Ridge (0-1) at Moffat County (1-0)
Steamboat Springs (0-1) at Roaring Fork (0-1)
The Basalt-Aspen rivalry is a good one and for the first time in many years the outcome is very important to the league championship and state playoff picture. Friday’s winner becomes the favorite to land the league championship and earn the right to play at home in round one.
Basalt is the defending league champion and as the pre-season favorite to win it again, it’s not surprising the Longhorns are in this position. They’ve won four straight since an opening loss to Rifle. Aspen, winners of just two games last year, is one of the more pleasant surprises this season. Their important win over Coal Ridge last week kept them perfect on the season and another win on Friday gives them six wins for the first time since 2014. It also moves them very close to their first post-season appearance since 2010.
Both teams can score points. Basalt has averaged 42 points per game during their winning streak and features a balanced attack with QB Trevor Reuss and TB Noah Williams. Reuss has thrown for 555 yards and six touchdowns this year with over half of his completions going to Raul Torres (16 receptions). Williams may play a bigger role against Aspen. He’s not carried the ball more than 16 times in any game but could see more activity against an Aspen defense that gave up 325 yards on the ground to Coal Ridge.
Aspen’s key is QB RJ Peshak. He threw for 268 yards and a touchdown last week and added a team best 64 yards with three scores on the ground. The senior leads the team in both categories for the season.
Peshak this week faces a big play Basalt defense that has produced 14 turnovers evenly divided between interceptions (7) and fumble recoveries (7). Peshak has thrown five picks through five games.
Despite last week’s loss, Coal Ridge (3-2) is still alive for a playoff spot and if Basalt gets the win over Aspen, still very much in the conference chase as well. The Titans are 12th in RPI this week.
Steamboat Springs and Roaring Fork are a combined 0-10 and hold down the final two spots in the RPI.
Valley (1-0) at Brush (0-1)
Fort Lupton (0-1) at Weld Central (0-1)
Sterling (1-0) at Platte Valley (1-0)
Valley is 4-1 overall and coming off an opening league win over Weld Central but most observers believe the winner between Sterling and Platte Valley will win the league championship and the loser will end up second. That was the case last year as Sterling collected a hard fought 27-19 win on their way to the crown.
Through the first five weeks of the season, the teams have three common opponents. Each has faced and beaten D’Evelyn, Resurrection Christian and Eaton. And the overall results are very close. Sterling has a margin of victory of 59 points; Platte Valley a bit better at 69.
Another similarity is at QB where each team features one of the best signal callers in the state. Senior Bodie Hume leads the Tigers with 1,254 yards and 14 TD’s passing. He’s thrown for at least 210 yards in every game and put up nine TD’s over the past two weeks. Hume was limited to 101 yards passing and one TD against Platte Valley last year but the Tigers also ran for 292 yards.
Platte Valley is led by junior Trevon Wehrman who is probably the better runner of the two. His stats are not posted on MaxPreps but as a sophomore he compiled over 25-hundred yards of offense. In the loss to Sterling, he threw for 160 yards, ran for 159 and was involved in all three touchdowns.
Playoff bracket positioning could also be impacted with the outcome. Platte Valley is 3rd in RPI and Sterling is 8th. The winner as mentioned is the probable conference champion and would play at home in their playoff opener. But the loser remains in contention for the one wildcard team that also gets the chance to host a first round game.
Valley ran for 227 yards in last week’s win over Weld Central. Gabriel Delgado (100) and Brandon Damian (91) both had strong efforts. The Vikings should be tested again at Brush. The Beetdiggers are just 1-4 but they’ve proven a tough out for almost every opponent.
Lamar (0-1) at Florence (0-1)
La Junta (1-0) at Manitou Springs (1-0)
Classical Academy (0-1) at Salida (1-0)
La Junta grabbed a 21-11 win over Classical Academy in last week’s top five showdown and thus recorded the most important win in week one of conference play. Jon Nuschy ran for 112 yards and threw for 111 in the key win. The Tigers also welcomed Wyatt Buhr back to the lineup. He ran for 98 yards on 15 carries after missing the Kent Denver game with injury. Now the Tigers focus on a trip to Manitou Springs but may also have one eye on the scoreboard in Salida.
That’s where the most important game of this week takes place as the Spartans (5-0) look to stay perfect against a Titans team needing a win to stay alive in the league race. If La Junta takes care of business this week, another loss by TCA would leave the Titans 0-2 in league play and on the short end of tiebreakers against the two conference leaders.
Classical Academy’s defense faces a much different offense than a week ago. They allowed 242 yards on the ground against La Junta’s physical running game but this week faces the spread attack of Salida. Bridger Russell threw for 197 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win over Florence and now has 1,137 yards and 13 scores for the season. The spread attack also allows the Spartans to run the football effectively. They entered the Florence contest averaging 207 yards per game and added 161 last week. Cody Farney picked up 116 of those yards giving him a third straight game of at least 100.
Wins by Salida and La Junta this week sets up what could be a huge showdown between the two in week eight. La Junta of course is the defending state champion and has been a regular playoff visitor under coach Clint Buderus. Salida has not made the post-season since 2010. A win on Friday guarantees their first winning season since 2014. They won six games that year but missed the 1A playoffs.
Kent Denver (1-0) at Ridgeview Academy (0-1)
Machebeuf (1-0) at Englewood (1-0)
Elizabeth (0-1) at Sheridan (0-1)
With Kent Denver expected to roll past Ridgeview Academy, the winner between Machebeuf and Englewood will be tied with the Sun Devils atop the standings. Englewood (3-2) has beaten three teams with a combined one win but their 58-0 shutout of Sheridan snapped a two game losing streak. Machebeuf (5-0) has not played a strong schedule either as each win is against a team with a losing record at this point of the season.
Both teams want to run the football as a first option. Machebeuf runs for 225 yards per game on the ground and Englewood 221. Each team has a featured back as well. Ikaika Gonzalez-Bentosino has played in just four games but has produced 519 yards for Englewood including 266 in last week’s win. Fernando Chavez paces the Buffs with 574 yards and 10 TD’s.
Machebeuf has the advantage throwing the football. QB Daniel Francis has completed 23 of 45 passes for 239 yards. Nine of those completions have gone for scores and three different receivers have two touchdown catches.
Kent Denver made quick work of Elizabeth last week; jumping to a 23-0 first quarter lead and extending to 35-0 by intermission. Seven Lindsey scored three touchdowns and finished with 157 yards rushing. The Sun Devils defense also limited top Elizabeth rusher Reece Ullery to just 18 yards on 12 attempts.
Delta (0-1) at Alamosa (1-0)
Gunnison (0-1) at Pagosa Springs (1-0)
Bayfield (1-0) at Montezuma Cortez (0-1) – (Sat)
Since none of the first week winners collide this week, there’s an excellent chance that three teams will share the conference lead by Sunday. Pagosa Springs collected the most impressive win in the opening round; downing Delta 26-7. The Pirates ran for 317 yards and received several big plays in the run game from Ty Kimsey and Connor Aragon. Pagosa hopes to build an early lead on winless Gunnison so they can rest players and avoid key injuries entering a two week stretch where they face both Bayfield and Alamosa.
Bayfield handled Gunnison 40-0 last week. The defense was especially strong holding the Cowboys to just 61 total yards on 47 plays.
Alamosa also posted a shutout in downing Montezuma Cortez 38-0. The Moose defense has given up only six points over the last two weeks and 34 for the season. 21 of those points were allowed in the eight point loss to La Junta.
11 players are in double figures in tackles for the season. Jaedon Gurule has missed one game but still tops the list with 26. Davis Gonzales is next with 20 and Antonio Rivera has 18. The defense has posted 53 tackles behind the line of scrimmage including eight from Gurule. They’ve also forced 11 turnovers including eight fumble recoveries.
The Moose face a Delta team desperate for a win. Last week’s loss was their third straight and it dropped them to 29th in RPI. The Panthers have won at least eight games every year since 2011 but probably needs to win out this season to have a chance at another playoff berth.
Pinnacle (0-1) at Eaton (1-0)
University (0-1) at Prospect Ridge (0-1)
Resurrection Christian (1-0) at Academy (1-0) – (Sat)
After picking up wins to open conference play, Resurrection Christian and Academy face off this Saturday in the most important game of the week. The winner becomes the top challenger to Eaton for the conference title.
Resurrection Christian appears to be gaining confidence on offense. During their 0-3 start, the Cougars managed only eight points overall but have tallied 62 in the last two weeks. They beat Moffat County to close non-league action and then blitzed Prospect Ridge (35-7) in their conference opener. Kyle Lueck ran for 101 yards and Evan King added 50. Isaac Crane also threw for 138 yards and a score.
Academy’s four wins are against clubs with a combined two victories. In their lone start against a team with a winning record, the Wildcats fell to Valley 35-0. Jakob Miller has 441 yards passing and Joe Hammer 429 on the ground.
Eaton picked up an important win at University last week behind 119 yards rushing and three TD’s from Travis Cunningham. The Reds will be favored in every game leading up to the finale against Resurrection Christian. Should the Cougars win this week, that contest could decide the conference championship for the second straight year.
Denver West (0-1) at Jefferson (0-1) – (Thurs)
Arvada (0-1) at Faith Christian (1-0)
Middle Park (1-0) at D’Evelyn (1-0)
One team will fall from the league unbeaten ranks on Friday when Middle Park makes the trek to D’Evelyn. Both teams were double digit winners in conference openers as Middle Park downed Denver West 42-27 and D’Evelyn dumped Arvada 48-6.
Blake Weimer led Middle Park with four touchdowns and 192 yards rushing. He now has 656 yards through five games and leads an offense scoring 34 points a game. Defense though remains a concern for the Panthers. They surrender 39 points per game including 80 in the opening loss to Aspen.
As a result, D’Evelyn should be above to move the football again this week. They scored eight touchdowns on only 39 plays last week averaging 12 yards per rush and 13 for each completion. Luca McIntyre ran for 100 yards. Chad Dines ran for two scores and added a third through the air.
Friday’s winner should have a share of the league lead with Faith Christian. The Eagles easily moved past Jefferson last week and should do the same against Arvada this week. The winner between Denver West and Jefferson gets their first win of 2017.