Patriot leagues take center stage in 2A football this week and games very important to league championships are set for Friday. #2 Platte Valley heads to Sterling in the Patriot East and that winner likely ends up with the championship and the same might be said for the Patriot West when #5 Resurrection Christian goes to #8 Eaton.
Since both the Cougars and Reds are ranked again this week, we’ll begin there. Resurrection Christian has already beaten Berthoud so a win over the Reds should lead them directly to the title. They would have games remaining with Academy and Prospect Ridge and they be heavily favored in both. Eaton still has a date with Berthoud in the final week of the season so a win this weekend puts them in control of the league chase but they would still have some work remaining.
Resurrection Christian continues to feature one of the top defenses in the state as they’ve given up only 31 points in six games. Basalt is the only 2A club that’s allowed fewer (19). They’ve surrendered only 15 points in beating Berthoud and University in league play.
Zane Zuhlke (43), Tanner Applebee (39) and Daniel Kelley (31) are the top tacklers. Peter Kuppinger has eight sacks and Applebee four with the Cougars collected 17 overall. They’ve forced 17 turnovers including three interceptions from Zuhlke and two fumble recoveries from Kelley.
Offensively, the Cougars have a good quarterback in Buck Coors who seems to play better against top-notch opponents. He’s tossed seven touchdown passes this season including two apiece in quality wins over Sterling, Faith Christian and Berthoud.
Eaton has topped University and Academy in league play and also posted strong non-conference victories over Sterling and D’Evelyn so they’re battle tested. The lone loss came against Platte Valley (26-7). QB Scott Grable has thrown for 670 yards and five touchdowns which have gone to four different receivers. Judson Church, with 14 catches for 237 yards, is the top receiver. Ty Garnhart anchors a ground game that will need to chew up yardage this week. He sits at 477 yards and Gage Butler has 323. Both have scored five touchdowns.
Garnhart is also the top tackler with 41 stops. He has a team best 8.5 sacks. Alex Maravilla is next with 38 tackles.
The rivals have split two previous league meetings. Eaton grabbed a 21-12 decision last year and Resurrection Christian won the 2016 contest 38-6. In both cases, the winner landed the conference championship.
Eaton is fourth in RPI and Resurrection Christian sixth this week. Berthoud is 13th so the league is in good shape to land at three playoff berths. The Spartans are at Academy this week and Prospect Ridge visits University on Thursday.
#2 Platte Valley carries a seven-game conference winning streak into their trip to Sterling on Friday. The Broncos downed the Tigers 42-21 last year but led the game just 28-21 after three quarters and then opened it up with two late scores. Coach Troy Hoffman’s team ran for 369 yards in the win including 120 from QB Trevon Wehrman and 100 from Ernesto Rios. Both are back in the Broncos backfield this year. Wehrman also threw for 119 yards.
Sterling used a strong second half to blow past Brush 48-21 last week to stay perfect in the Patriot East. The game was tied at 21 at halftime but the Tigers outscored Brush 27-0 in the final two quarters. Their defense was strong in giving up just 233 yards of offense and improved quite a bit after halftime adjustments. The group will again be crucial this week as they must play well in space against Platte Valley’s spread offense.
In other games, Brush is at Valley and Weld Central goes to Fort Lupton. None of those four clubs are in the top 30 of RPI so at best, the league gets two bids. Platte Valley is 7th in RPI points and is in good shape. Sterling, which began the season at 0-3 is 19th so they may need to win the title to gain a playoff berth.
The top four teams in the Western Slope collide this week so the race could get very tight or become a two-team battle. #3 Rifle and #6 Basalt open the week 2-0 in league play and they play Aspen and #10 Delta respectively. The Skiers and Panthers are both 1-1 in the conference. If they both win, all four teams enter the final two weeks tied at 2-1 but if Rifle and Basalt win, they open a two-game lead on all other league members and their battle next week will determine the top two spots.
Rifle scored a huge road win at Delta last week 34-7. They’re 6-0 and five of their wins have come by at least 21 points. The exception is a 27-14 win over Glenwood Springs.
Defensively, the Bears must contend with the passing offense of Aspen that has scored 91 points in two conference games. They totaled 40 in a loss to Delta two weeks ago and responded with 51 points in a road win at Moffat County last week.
Tyler Ward is the director. The sophomore QB has thrown for 1,660 yards and 19 TD’s. He’s also completing passes at a 57 percent rate. Top targets include Max Ufkes and Noah Hollander. Both have 35 catches on the season and together they’ve totaled 1,250 yards and 15 TD’s.
One concern for the Skiers though is the ability to get that offense on the field enough. The Bears have one of the best running games in 2A football and they’re very good at controlling possession and clock. If the Skiers can’t get off the field on third down defensively, they will have a tough time getting the win.
Basalt as mentioned is led by a rugged defense that’s posted four shutouts this season including three of the last four. Turnovers have played a major role as the Longhorns force an average of 4.5 turnovers per game. They recovered five fumbles in last week’s win over Coal Ridge (34-0) and now have 20 recoveries on the season.
Jake Reardon has seven of them. He’s also the leading rusher for the Longhorns and gained 136 yards a week ago. Peter Zimmer added 83 yards and both scored a touchdown.
Delta has battled inconsistency on offense this year. They exploded for 49 points in the impressive win over Aspen but managed just seven against Rifle last week and was held to the same number in a low-scoring win over Bennett.
All four teams continue to be strong playoff contenders. Basalt, for the second straight week, is the highest ranked team in the RPI. Rifle is 5th with Delta 9th and Aspen 14th. The third league game this week has Moffat County at Coal Ridge.
The Tri Peaks has two games of interest this week. Classical Academy goes to Elizbeth and that winner could easily end up second to top ranked La Junta at season’s end. La Junta also entertains Lamar in the second longest rivalry west of the Mississippi River. La Junta leads the all-time series 59-49-1 and the teams have played almost every season for the past 116 years. Over the last 16 meetings, they’ve played for the Train Whistle with La Junta leading that stretch 10-6. Lamar last won in 2014 beating the Tigers 39-13 but they’ve haven’t scored since; falling by shutout each of the past three years. The Tigers are favored to make it four straight this Friday.
Classical Academy and Elizabeth have played nearly identical seasons. The Titans opened 0-3 but have won three in-a-row. Elizabeth started 0-2 but then won their next three before falling to La Junta 40-7 last week. If Classical Academy gets the win, their game with La Junta will again determine the league championship as it has for the past two seasons.
The Flatirons is the only 2A conference without a team in the top 10 but Faith Christian and D’Evelyn are close to breaking through. The Jags are 5-1 and should get another win at home against Arvada. Faith Christian has a tougher test as they meet Bennett.
Faith Christian has not been tested in league play as they’ve rolled past Denver West and Arvada by identical 55-0 scores the past two weeks. The running game has averaged nearly 11 yards per carry with 12 touchdowns in those two wins. They also totaled 294 yards with six scores in a non-league win over Manitou Springs. David Nagy leads the Eagles with 596 yards and 11 scores. Isaiah Kroll provides a solid passing threat and he enters week eight with 592 yards through the air.
Bennett is coming off a nice road win at Middle Park (44-23) last week. They limited the Panthers to 94 yards rushing on 36 carries and will try to do the same to the Eagles ground game this week.
Concerning RPI, D’Evelyn is 12th, Faith Christian 17th, Bennett 18th and Middle Park 20th so none of the four are a lock for a wildcard berth if they fall short of a league championship.
#9 Kent Denver picked up a solid win over Englewood last week and that puts them in a first-place tie with Machebeuf atop the Colorado. The two rivals collide on October 26th. Kent entertains Riverdale Ridge on Saturday and Machebeuf is home to Ridgeview Academy on Friday. Englewood looks to get back into the win column against Alameda.
Kent Denver has bumped to 10th in the RPI this week. Machebeuf and Englewood are 26-27th and need to land the championship to get a bid.
It appears the Intermountain league championship will be decided when #4 Bayfield and #7 Salida get together in the final week of the season. Salida stayed perfect on the season with a high-level win at Pagosa Springs last week (35-7) and returns home to meet Alamosa this week. Bayfield returns to the field after their second bye of the season. They host Montezuma Cortez.
Even with the bye, Bayfield moved up three spots to #2 in RPI this week. Salida is 8th. And Pagosa Springs stays strong in the 11th spot despite the lopsided home loss. Montezuma Cortez is also in contention (15th) after beating Alamosa on the road last week. The Moose dropped to 22nd.