Fans of 2A football find a very good and very important schedule in week eight.Â League unbeatens meet in both the Colorado and Western Slope and another important battle inside the Tri Peaks could determine that championship.Â Plus a few other teams can clinch titles with wins this week.
Kent Denver (3-0) at Machebeuf (3-0)
Elizabeth (2-1) at Englewood (1-2)
Sheridan (0-3) at Ridgeview Academy (0-3)
Kent Denver clinches the league title by beating Machebeuf this week but the Buffs need a win and a loss by Elizabeth to be crowned champions.Â Â Machebeuf and Elizabeth meet in the final week while Kent Denver already has a win over the third-place Cards earlier in conference play.
Even with both teams unbeaten overall, Kent Denver enters Friday’s matchup heavily favored.Â And much of it is due to the strength of schedule.Â Kent Denver has beaten seven opponents who have a combined winning percentage of 56 while opponents for Machebeuf are winning at just a 26 percent clip.
For Machebeuf to get the victory, the Buffs need to establish their running game averaging 252 yards per game.Â Fernando Chavez leads the team with 719 yards and 12 touchdowns.Â If the Sun Devils defense focuses on the senior, then the Buffs will need yardage from the likes of Joe Paolucci (372 yards) and Darius Richards (298).Â They’ve combined for eight touchdowns on the season.
Kent’s defense has surrendered only 46 points through seven games and has posted four shutouts including last week’s 38-0 win over Englewood.Â The Sun Devils have made 108 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and recorded 40 sacks.Â They’ve also forced 15 turnovers.
TJ Love has a team best 22 tackles for a loss with Willy Boatman and Noah Van Sickle next at 15 apiece.Â Those three have also combined for 24 sacks including a team high 10 for Love.
Elizabeth is 13th in RPI points so they need to keep winning to solidify a playoff berth.Â Since falling to Kent Denver in the league opener, the Cards have rolled Sheridan 56-6 and Ridgeview Academy 55-12.Â Leading rusher Reece Ullery (1,027 yards) has combined for 482 yards and seven touchdowns in the two wins.
Kent Denver is 2nd in the RPI standings this week and Machebeuf is 10th.Â Win or lose, the Buffs could improve their standing as playing an unbeaten team will greatly boost their strength of schedule.Â Elizabeth is the only other league team in the playoff chase as Englewood is down the list a bit at #27.
Middle Park (2-1) at Arvada (1-2) (Thurs)
Denver West (1-2) at Faith Christian (3-0)
D’Evelyn (2-1) at Jefferson (0-3)
It won’t be official until the final week, but Faith Christian realistically won the conference championship with their physical 14-7 win over D’Evelyn last Saturday.Â The Eagles stand alone in first but still must beat Middle Park in the final week to make their title official.Â That game next week could become meaningless if the Panthers lose this week or if Denver West stuns Faith Christian.Â Neither result is likely.
Against D’Evelyn, Faith Christian ran for 215 yards and picked up 115 yards and two scores from Jordan Abbott.Â His two second half touchdowns allowed the Eagles to rally from a 7-0 halftime deficit.
With the loss, D’Evelyn is in danger of missing the playoffs.Â The Jaguars are now 17th in RPI standings and their remaining schedule won’t help as the opponents have a combined record of 1-14.Â They could receive a boost if non-conference opponents Sterling, Classical Academy and Platte Valley keep winning.Â All three are in the top six of RPI this week.
Delta (2-1) at Bayfield (3-0)
Gunnison (0-3) at Montezuma Cortez (0-3)
Alamosa (2-1) at Pagosa Springs (2-1) (Sat)
With four teams within one game of the conference lead, the final two weeks could result in several different scenarios.Â But Bayfield does have a chance to land the league title this week if they beat Delta and Pagosa Springs knocks off Alamosa.Â Those results leave the Wolverines at 4-0 inside the conference and Pagosa Springs second at 3-1.Â Bayfield would then clinch the title based on last week’s win over the Pirates.
Neither result is a given.Â Delta has stayed alive for a post-season berth by beating Alamosa and Montezuma Cortez the past couple of weeks.Â The Panthers also played well in losses to 3A rivals Durango and Palisade in non-conference play.Â Pagosa Springs probably gained more attention from last week’s loss to Bayfield than any previous win and that effort probably gives them enough confidence to beat Alamosa.Â Plus, they’re at home against the Mean Moose.
Alamosa though has plenty to play for.Â Even if Bayfield beats Delta, the Moose remain in the championship chase since they play the Wolverines in the final week.Â A win though this week is necessary for those hopes to stay alive if Bayfield wins on Friday.Â The outcome with Pagosa Springs is also very important to the RPI standings as the Pirates sit 15th and Alamosa 16th this week.
QB Josh Lujan has turned into a dual threat for Alamosa.Â The junior has thrown for 569 yards and six touchdowns this year and is second on the team with 273 yards rushing.Â He’s scored seven times on the ground.Â Reis Martinez is the top rusher with 581 yards and six scores.
Those two face a Pagosa Springs defense that was just the second team to hold Bayfield under 39 points this year.Â But they couldn’t muster enough offense in the 21-3 loss.Â Bayfield rushed for 187 yards and earned touchdown runs from Carl Heide and David Hawkins. Â Hayden Farmer finished 7 of 15 passing for 101 yards.
The Wolverines of course get into the playoffs by winning the conference but sitting 4th in RPI points, they’re also in great shape for a wildcard berth.Â Delta is 20th this week.
Platte Valley (3-0) at Brush (2-1)
Valley (1-2) at Fort Lupton (0-3)
Weld Central (1-2) at Sterling (2-1)
Despite a scare against Valley last week, unbeaten Platte Valley can sew up the league championship by beating Brush on Friday.Â The Broncos can also move closer to the top overall playoff seed as they lead Kent Denver by .019 points in the RPI standings released earlier this week.
Platte Valley stayed in first place with a furious rally against Valley last week.Â The Vikings led the game 14-7 into the fourth quarter but the Broncos tied it up midway through the final period and then scored the winning TD in the final minute.
Sterling’s Bodie Hume threw for 407 yards and seven touchdowns in last week’s 56-28 win over Fort Lupton.Â His six first-half touchdowns tied a state record.Â Axel Henry caught six passes for 171 yards and a touchdown while Isaac Harris also latched onto six passes for 123 yards and two scores.Â Colton Shalla earned two touchdown receptions and Trevor Smith and Christian Rose each caught one.
Hume needs just 81 yards this week to reach 2,000 for the season.Â His Tigers can clinch second place with a win if Fort Lupton also upsets Valley. Â Â It’s not likely.Â The Vikings ran for 210 yards in the loss to Platte Valley and this week lines up against a Blue Devils defense allowing 35 points per game.
Concerning the playoff picture, Platte Valley (1st) and Sterling (6th) are in great shape to get in.Â Valley is 18th and directly on the fence.Â Brush and Weld Central are 21st and 24th respectively.
Pinnacle (0-3) at Resurrection Christian (3-0)
Eaton (3-0) at Prospect Ridge (2-1) (Sat)
University (0-3) at Academy (1-2) (Sat)
Should Eaton and Resurrection Christian post wins as expected this week, they’ll collide in week nine to determine the league champion and runner-up club.Â That game could become very important as it’s possible only the winner gets into the post-season.Â Both would be in if the playoffs opened this week as Resurrection Christian is 12th and Eaton 14th in RPI points.Â Prospect Ridge sits 22nd and their playoff chances are greatly enhanced if they upset Eaton on Saturday.
Eaton has won their first three league games by a combined 117 points.Â Wins for Resurrection Christian have been close including last week’s 14-8 victory over University.Â They did handle third place Prospect Ridge 35-7 and Academy 38-0.
Even if they don’t beat Eaton or make the playoffs, Prospect Ridge has shown great improvement in year two of their varsity program.Â They were outscored 342-82 in their first varsity campaign last year and finished 1-8.Â They enter the game with Eaton at 3-4 but outscored by just three point overall.
QB Jake Thiret leads the Miners in passing (397 yards) and rushing (561) while combing for six touchdowns.Â Micah Honea has added 397 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.Â The two were responsible for all 189 yards of offense in the loss to Resurrection Christian.
Manitou Springs (1-2) at Florence (1-2)
Lamar (0-3) at Classical Academy (2-1)
Salida (2-1) at La Junta (3-0)
The top three spots in the league chase are settled if La Junta and Classical Academy both win this week.Â The Tigers would end up as conference champions with TCA second and Salida third.Â If the opposite takes place then Salida jumps into first place with La Junta second and Classical Academy third.Â If both Classical Academy and Salida post wins, the two are tied with La Junta atop the standings entering the final week.
With TCA expected to easily get by Lamar, the focus is on the La Junta — Salida matchup.Â Both teams have played TCA this season and both were tight games.Â La Junta picked up a 21-11 win and Salida fell short 27-19.Â Those results make for a good matchup on Friday.
The key to game could come down to the Salida offensive line and if they can stand up to the physical front seven of La Junta.Â If given time to throw the football, Bridger Russell has proven he can move the sticks and score points in bunches.Â Through seven games, the senior has completed 90 of 138 passes for 1,502 yards and 17 touchdowns.
And if the offensive line holds up, then there will be space for Cody Yarney to find room in the running game.Â He leads the Spartans with 566 yards and seven touchdowns.
La Junta’s defense has surrendered a paltry 61 points this season including just 10 to top ranked Kent Denver.Â The unit has 31 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and six sacks.Â Hayden Honey has six tackles for loss and three sacks to lead the team in both categories.Â Wyatt Buhr and Vicente Ramirez each have five tackles for loss and five different players have intercepted a pass.
Classical Academy (3rd), La Junta (5th) and Salida (7th) are all in the top seven and basically locks to make the playoffs either as a league champion or wildcard.Â At most two and maybe only the league champion will get to play at home in round one as only one wildcard gets to host in the opening weekend.Â The runner-up team in the Patriot East is also in the running for the top wildcard spot.
Manitou Springs is next in the playoff chase but the Mustangs are 23rd in RPI this week.
Basalt (3-0) at Moffat County (3-0)
Coal Ridge (0-3) at Roaring Fork (0-3)
Aspen (2-1) at Steamboat Springs (1-2)
League leaders Basalt and Moffat County face off in Craig Friday night but only the Longhorns can clinch a championship with a win.Â Moffat County can only raise the trophy with a win if Steamboat Springs also upsets Aspen.Â If not, then the Bulldogs would also need to beat Aspen in the final week to claim the top prize and a playoff berth.
Winning the league championship might be the only route to the playoffs for Moffat County.Â The Bulldogs are 4-3 overall but only 25th in RPI points.Â Their strength of schedule is only 31 percent but will be boosted by finishing the schedule with Basalt and Aspen who are a combined 12-2.Â Basalt is 9th in RPI and Aspen 11th this week.
Basalt RB Noah Williams has been nearly unstoppable in league play.Â In wins over Steamboat Springs, Aspen and Coal Ridge, the senior has 53 rushing attempts for 574 yards and 14 touchdowns.Â He ran for 142 yards and four scores against Coal Ridge on just 11 touches.Â Other than the 28 carries against Aspen, the senior has not run the ball more than 16 times in a game so he enters the final stretch of the season not too banged up.
QB Trevor Reuss has thrown for 205 yards over his last two games and his efforts prevent defenses from stacking the box against Williams.Â On the season, Reuss is at 760 yards with seven touchdowns.
Moffat County has rolled both Roaring Fork (61-6) and Steamboat Springs (41-13) in league play but stayed in the title chase with a physical 14-10 win over Coal Ridge two weeks ago.Â The Bulldogs managed to win despite gaining just 168 yards of total offense.Â They also committed three turnovers but forced four to turn the game in their favor.
Because of that win, the Bulldogs still control their destiny as wins in the final two weeks get them back into the post-season.Â A loss in either likely means the season ends without a playoff berth.
Aspen is likely rooting for a Moffat County win as that result keeps them in the running for at least a piece of the league title.Â A Moffat County win this week and an Aspen win over the Bulldogs next week probably leaves the two tied with Basalt for the league crown.Â Then a tiebreaker will be needed to determine the champion as that team earns the automatic playoff berth.