Football fans on the 2A level should be treated to a pair of tremendous semifinal games on Saturday. Three of the four teams enter the weekend unbeaten on the season and combined, the four clubs have won 42 consecutive games. La Junta, Resurrection Christian and Platte Valley all sit at 11-0 with Faith Christian at 9-2 but riding a nine-game win streak.
La Junta Tigers (11-0) at Faith Christian Eagles (9-2)
Both teams have scored over 350 points on the season but defense could decide the winner. La Junta has given up just 68 points all season and allowed just one opponent (Lamar) to score more than 14 points in a single game. Faith Christian gave up 51 points in back-to-back season opening losses to Resurrection Christian and Kent Denver but given up only 58 points over their last nine. In the playoffs, they have moved past Kent Denver and Bayfield while allowing just 20 total points. La Junta has allowed just six points in two playoff games including a very impressive shutout over Salida (20-0) last week.
What made the win impressive was the Tigers defense against the run. Salida picked up 398 yards rushing in a first round win against Aspen but managed just 35 yards against the Tigers. They also held the Spartans to only 55 yards passing and through two games in the post-season; the Tigers have surrendered just 267 yards.
Jacob Tafoya led the defensive effort with six tackles last week. Noah Barrett totaled five and Ty Addington. Kyle Keck and Nathan Frankmore also recovered fumbles and Ryan Malden collected a key interception in the end zone.
On offense, two-time player of the year Jon Nuschy continues to be the main spark. He has 307 yards rushing and five touchdowns in the two playoff wins. He ran for 90 yards and a touchdown against Salida and also tossed a scoring pass to James Waddles. Antonio Chavez added 34 yards rushing with one score against Salida.
Jacob Thielen had 10 tackles, Michael Osgood eight and Aaron Buchmann seven in leading Faith Christian past defending state champion Bayfield last week. But it was a huge interception and return for touchdown by Jordan Abbott that pushed Faith Christian into the semifinals. His huge play gave the Eagles a two-score cushion (21-7) midway through the fourth quarter and it forced Bayfield to play catchup the rest of the game.
The Eagles defense picked up three sacks and recovered two fumbles. The unit also forced two turnovers and surrendered only 183 total yards in a first round win over Kent Denver.
Offensively, the Eagles ran for 216 yards and threw for 91. Isaiah Kroll tossed two touchdown passes including one to Abbott who was also a factor on that side of the ball.
Despite all the tradition from both programs, this will be the first playoff meeting between La Junta and Faith Christian. The Tigers need a win to reach the state championship game for the 10th time in school history. A win also gives them a third consecutive trip there. They lost to Bayfield in the finals a year ago but landed the title in 2016. Their previous finals appearance came in 1958.
Faith Christian last made the championship game in 2013. It’s their first semifinal appearance since that season but the Eagles also reached the semifinals six times between 2003-2009.
Resurrection Christian Cougars (11-0) at Platte Valley Broncos (11-0)
Even though they haven’t faced off this year, the two clubs are very familiar with one another as they’ve played five times since 2014. Platte Valley won the most recent game (20-0) last season and that win snapped a three-game skid to the Cougars. Resurrection Christian has a 30-20 win in the only head-to-head playoff meeting (2016).
With 405 points scored, Platte Valley features the most explosive offense of the four teams remaining in the bracket. And the ability to score in many different fashions is what makes the Broncos very difficult to defend. That versatility has been on display through the first two playoff games as QB Trevon Wehrman tossed five touchdown passes to five different receivers in a 45-21 first round win over Delta. Against Basalt, the Broncos ran for 408 yards with six touchdowns in a 46-9 decision.
Wehrman threw for 231 yards against Delta and added 90 on the ground. He also picked up 56 yards rushing with two more scores versus Basalt. Ernesto Rios picked up 148 yards rushing in the playoff opener and exploded for 264 and two scores in the win at Basalt. Josh Yancey and Gabe Montes also scored on the ground last week.
Another strong point for the Platte Valley offense is the ability to score points in bunches. They reeled off 18 second quarter points against Delta and used a 22-point spurt in the third quarter to open up the Basalt game last week. They led just 17-3 at halftime but quickly stretched to 39-3 in the third.
Quick starts have pushed Resurrection Christian to playoff wins over Alamosa (28-6) and Rifle (21-14). In both games, the Cougars scored a pair of first quarter touchdowns for an early 14-0 lead. And defensively, the Cougars have been strong in both outings. They limited Alamosa to just 40 yards rushing in round one and then held Rifle standout Tanner Vines to a season low 133 yards rushing on 30 carries in the quarterfinals.
Kyle Lueck and Zane Zuhlke have played major roles in the playoffs. Both finished with 13 tackles last week with Zuhlke adding two interceptions. He returned one for a score during the 14-point first quarter. Zuhlke also tossed a touchdown pass. Lueck ran for 93 yards and two scores against Alamosa and added 75 against Rifle last week. Alex Riedel also scored a touchdown on the ground against the Bears.
Resurrection Christian is in the semifinals for a second straight year and fourth time since 2014. They’re still looking for their first win and first trip to a state championship contest. They’ve lost each of the previous three semifinal games by at least 15 points.
Platte Valley is in the Final Four for the first time since 2015. They beat Kent Denver 29-23 that year and that appearance finished off a run of four consecutive semifinal appearances. The Broncos are 5-2 in this round all-time.