2A FOOTBALL QUARTERFINALS PREVIEW

Rematches are the word of the quarterfinals as three of the four games on tap are second editions of regular season battles.  Platte Valley, La Junta and Faith Christian were winners the first time around and all three are favored again in the rematches.  The fourth quarterfinal features Western Slope powers Bayfield and Basalt.
 
#1 Platte Valley (10-0) vs #8 Eaton (8-2)
The first of three rematches in the bracket this week has the long-time Weld County rivals meeting for the second time this season.  Platte Valley picked up a 41-21 decision in week two to stretch their winning streak over the Reds to six straight.  Eaton last beat Platte Valley 49-30 during the 2012 regular season; the senior year for current Chargers running back Austin Ekeler.  Platte Valley avenged that loss with a 23-21 win in the playoffs later that season and has not dropped a game to the Reds since.
In week two this year, the game was knotted at seven through 12 minutes but then Platte Valley exploded for 34 points over the next two quarters.  Trevor Wehrman attempted 15 passes and completed 10 for 154 yards.  He also ran the ball 15 times for 132 yards and two scores.  Zach Waite (93) and Ernesto Rios (82) were also effective on the ground as Platte Valley collected 361 yards in the run game.  They finished with 510 yards of offense overall.
Eaton also moved the ball well with 370 yards in the loss.  They ran for 170 yards as a team including 121 and two touchdowns from Trevor Cunningham.  QB Austin Coalson also threw for 200 yards but he will not play in the rematch due to an injured shoulder suffered in the first-round win over Sterling.
Before Coalson was hurt, he threw for 54 yards on just eight passing attempts.  He didn’t need to throw that much as the Reds ran for 224 yards and three touchdowns.  Cunningham again led the way with 129 yards and two scores.
The same strategy will likely be in place again this week.  The Reds will look to establish the run early to take pressure off backup QB Ty Garnhart and to keep the Broncos offense on the sidelines.  Garnhart threw just one pass last week and has just four attempts the entire season but has completed all four for 34 yards.
Platte Valley outscored D’Evelyn 46-34 last week but could never put the Jaguars completely away until the final gun.  The Broncos jumped to a quick 14-0 advantage but then the two teams traded scores the rest of the way.  Wehrman threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns and led the Broncos with 81 yards rushing.  Rios and Waite were again effective.  They finished with 72 and 64 yards respectively and each reached the end zone.
Defensively, the Broncos gave up 424 yard and five scores through the air but will likely be challenged more on the ground against Eaton.  They gave up just 77 yards rushing last week.
Playoff wise, Platte Valley has won both meetings.  In addition to the 23-21 decision in 2012, the Broncos also downed the Reds 14-7 in overtime in a tremendous 2007 state semifinal.
Eaton last reached the state semifinals in 2014 when they lost to Brush 42-14.  Platte Valley missed the semifinals last year but had reached the round four straight seasons from 2012-15.
 
#4 La Junta (9-1) vs #5 Classical Academy (9-1)
La Junta moved past Classical Academy 21-11 in Tri Peaks league action earlier this year and the two clubs meet again with a state semifinal appearance on the line.  The defending state champion Tigers seek a second straight appearance in the final four while the Titans work for their second semifinal trip in school history.  They last reached in 2013 as a Class 3A club.
Game one belonged to talented quarterbacks Jon Nuschy and Cade Bethany.  Nuschy ran for 112 yards and passed for 111 in leading La Junta to the victory.  Cade Bethany paced TCA with 196 yards passing and a team best 57 yards.  For the season, Nuschy has been involved in 23 touchdowns while totaling almost 1,600 yards of offense.  Bethany has thrown for 1,427 yards with 12 touchdowns with another 476 yards and four scores on the ground.
In Saturday’s rematch, we expect both signal callers to again make big plays but the team that gets help from others may be the club that gains the semifinal berth.
For La Junta, help should come from Wyatt Buhr.  The senior has provided 762 yards with nine touchdowns on the ground and is also the team leader with 53 tackles.  He ran for 91 yards in the Tigers 34-0 first-round win over Pagosa Springs last week.  Nuschy led the way with 179 yards and Zach Archuleta added 56.
Brayden Luft was the difference for Classical Academy in their 36-24 win over Aspen to open the playoffs.  He ran for 193 yards and a touchdown as the Titans focused on the running game during the decisive second half.  Rhys Ryba added 96 yards and he scored twice as did Jenson Hall.
On the defensive side, La Junta recorded their third shutout of the season in blanking Pagosa Springs.  They’ve given up only 83 points all season (8.3).  In addition to Buhr, Nuschy has 49 stops, Vicente Ramirez 45 and Hayden Honey 44.  The Tigers have 10 sacks and forced 15 turnovers.
Brady Miller (69) and Alec Day (68) are the top tacklers on the Classical Academy defense.  Luft is next with 58.  They’ve forced 20 turnovers including four interceptions from John Bull and three apiece from Luft and Ethan Boyles.  Miller has six of the team’s 18 sacks.
Saturday marks the first ever playoff game between the two.  La Junta though has won both battles in the regular season since the Titans joined the Tri Peaks conference before the start of the 2015 campaign.  The state championship run last year pushed La Junta to 39 playoff wins in school history.  Classical Academy has just four wins with all four coming since the 2013 season.
 
#3 Bayfield (10-0) vs #6 Basalt (9-1)
Both teams have advanced to the state quarterfinals but they took completely different routes through the first-round.  Bayfield blew past Elizabeth 51-0 in their playoff opener while Basalt worked the full 48-minutes before downing Salida 28-22.
Leading 41-0 at halftime, the Wolverines got a chance to rest many of their key players.  But before they left the game, they posted impressive numbers.  Dax Snooks intercepted four passes and returned two for touchdowns.  He led a tremendous defensive effort as the Wolverines posted a third consecutive shutout.  Isaac Lorenzen also recovered two fumbles as the Wolverines forced six turnovers.
Hunter Killough finished with nine tackles, Cole Wood seven and Kirk Malone six.
On offense, Bayfield ran for 200 yards including 73 and two touchdowns from Carl Heide.  Hayden Farmer threw just seven passes but completed six for 160 yards and two scores; one each to Killough and Dawson Heide.
Basalt’s win over Salida was their ninth straight since the opening loss to Rifle.  Noah Williams was again very solid in the run game; chalking up 158 yards and a touchdown.  He now has 1,390 yards and 26 scores for the season.  Trevor Reuss was 11-18 throwing the football.  He totaled just 78 yards but two of the completions went for touchdowns to Juan Rosario and Griffen Jenkins.  Reuss also scored a touchdown on the ground.  The senior now needs just 21 yards to reach 1,000 passing for the season.
With last week’s blowout, Bayfield’s offense is averaging 41 points a game and has reached at least 40 in six games.  Farmer is nearing 1,700 yards passing.  He’s tossed 25 touchdowns against just nine interceptions.  Heide has 822 yards rushing; Killough 577 and David Hawkins 440.  Snooks tops all receivers with 27 catches for 483 yards and ten touchdowns.
Basalt and Bayfield have not previously met in the post-season.  The Longhorns win last week was just the second in school history and first since beating Haxtun 28-15 in 1979.  That’s the only semifinal appearance for Basalt and it came with an eight-team playoff bracket.
With a win, Bayfield will reach the semifinals for a second straight year and for the fifth time since 2011.  They have two state championships including the 2015 crown (beat Platte Valley 28-20).
 
#15 Resurrection Christian (6-4) vs #7 Faith Christian (9-1)
This is the third rematch in the state quarterfinals as Faith Christian collected a 9-0 win over Resurrection Christian back on September 1st.  Neither team reached the end zone as the Eagles relied on three field goals to gain the victory.  The Eagles ran for 82 yards including 62 from David Nagy.  They also got a strong game from QB Isaiah Kroll who threw for 147 yards on 11 completions.
Resurrection Christian mustered 107 yards rushing and just 24 through the air in the loss.  Kyle Lueck led the ground game with 61 yards on 12 attempts.  Isaac Crane hit just four of 13 attempts.
But the Cougars have plenty of momentum entering the rematch as they scored an improbable win over #2 Kent Denver in the opening round.  They were given little chance but pulled off the tremendous 29-219 decision.  It did not come without adversity.  After jumping to a 14-0 first quarter lead, the Cougars trailed 21-14 going to the fourth before pushing across the two game winning touchdowns.
They also battled through injuries at the quarterback position as three different players stepped into that role.  Crane was 5-9 for 52 yards, Zane Zuhlke 1-3 for 21 and Buck Coors 3-4 with 10 yards.  Crane and Coors both tossed touchdown passes; one each to Sparky Morris and Shane Maguire.
Pass defense was also crucial to Resurrection Christian.  They limited Joey Licht to just four completions and 58 yards on 18 attempts.  They also limited the Sun Devils to just 159 yards on the ground.
The win marked the continuance of a remarkable turnaround for the Cougars who opened the season with three straight losses.  They also totaled just eight points in those three losses including the shutout loss to Faith Christian.  Since, they’ve reeled off wins in seven of their last eight.
Faith Christian was again physical on both sides of the line in their 17-0 shutout of Machebeuf last week.  It was their fourth shutout of the season and they enter the state quarterfinals allowing just 11 points per game.  Take away the 52 points allowed to Kent Denver in their only loss and the Eagles are giving up less than six per game.  The defense has recorded 17 sacks this season and forced 14 turnovers.
On offense, Adam Muniz has provided a recent spark.  Stepping in for injured leading rusher Jordan Abbot, Muniz has rushed for 270 yards and scored three times in the last two games.  He gained 131 yards in last week’s first round win.  He reached the end zone once as did Nagy who finished with 37 yards.
Kroll was limited to 23 yards passing last week but has 798 yards and 12 TD’s on the season.  Muniz (439) is now second on the team in rushing with Nagy third (419).  Those two have combined for 11 touchdowns.
It’s the first post-season meeting between the two schools.  A win pushes Resurrection Christian into the semifinals for the third time in four years.  They missed out last season following a 28-23 loss to Delta in the quarterfinals.  Delta also finished the season for Faith Christian last year beating the Eagles 14-7 in the first round.  The Eagles last reached the semifinals in 2013 where they beat Brush 24-14 before falling to Platte Valley in the state championship.
 
 

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