Likely two conference championship games and possibly a third are on the 2A football schedule in week eight. Sterling and Platte Valley collide in the Patriot East, Eaton and Resurrection Christian square off in the Patriot West and Classical Academy and Elizabeth also meet in the Tri Peaks. But the matchup with the best combined records is found in the Western Slope between Basalt (6-0) and Delta (5-1). We preview those and several more in our weekly report.
Sterling (5-1) at Platte Valley (5-1)
Three of the last four years this game has decided first and second in the Patriot East. Platte Valley has won the last two contests with Sterling last scoring a win in 2016. Overall Sterling has lost three conference games in the past four years and all three are against the Broncos.
The same scenario is likely this year as these two clubs seem to be a bit better than all other league rivals. Sterling is ranked #1 in RPI and Platte Valley #5 and both are unbeaten against 2A competition. The Tigers’ lone loss came against Scottsbluff NE and they have quality wins over Resurrection Christian, Eaton and Classical Academy. A win over Platte Valley this week puts them in line for the top overall playoff seed. Platte Valley dropped a game to 3A Lutheran but posted solid victories over Elizabeth and Eaton to close up the non-conference slate.
The Broncos are running the ball a bit more; almost a two to one ration compared to the passing game. They’ve generated 1,031 yards on the ground with 505 through the air. Josh Yancey, with 559 yards and five scores, is the top rusher with QB Kade McDaniel next in line with 263 yards and three scores. He’s also thrown for 417 yards.
Sterling QB Brock Shalla tops the Tigers in both passing yards (737) and rushing (310). He’s also been involved in five touchdowns in both manners. He directs a balanced attack that has created 755 yards through the air and 816 on the ground.
Both defenses can turn in big plays. Sterling has 36 tackles for loss with 18 sacks. They also have 18 takeaways. Tucker Myers and Jackson Keil both have three interceptions and Drew Book has recovered another three fumbles. Platte Valley has eight interceptions including three players with two. Colby Frias has also returned an interception for a touchdown.
Eaton (4-2) at Resurrection Christian (5-1)
The west side of the Patriot league could also crown a champion this week as the Reds and Cougars tangle for the outright lead. Both teams also have a win over University so the winner is in great shape to land the title. Resurrection Christian is second in the RPI; four spots higher than Eaton.
The key may be the availability of Eaton QB Scott Grable. The junior did not play in last week’s 27-9 win over Academy. The Reds trailed 2-0 at halftime but then tallied two touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarter. Freshman Walker Martin did a good job in place of Grable; throwing for 63 yards and running for 57. Gage Butler also added 135 yards on the ground and scored twice.
The Cougars offense has generated 151 points over their last three outings including league wins over Berthoud (41-0) and University (56-12). Buck Coors has scored 10 TD’s on the ground and added ten more through the air while combining for nearly 13-hundred yards of offense. Defensively, Tanner Applebee leads the Cougars with 45 tackles with nearly half behind the line of scrimmage (21). He’s also recorded 16 sacks and will likely be double or triple teamed this week.
Elizabeth (5-1) at Classical Academy (4-2)
A third possible league championship game is found here as the Cards and Titans are both 2-0 inside the Tri Peaks. Elizabeth also has a win over La Junta so the Cards will have control of the race with a road win this week.
Elizabeth has scored two conference wins in completely different fashion. They steamrolled Manitou Springs 61-7 in their opener and then edged La Junta 7-6 last week. The difference there was a blocked extra point. They’re seeking their first league championship of any kind since 2013 when they captured the 3A Metro East.
Classical Academy also won their last league crown that year as they rolled through the 3A Southern division at 5-0 on their way to their lone state semifinal appearance. They’ve tallied 103 points in high scoring wins over Lamar and Manitou Springs. Much of the offense has been provided by Cade Palmer who ran for 155 yards against Lamar and then topped that with 193 last week against Manitou.
Elizabeth is 7th in RPI with Classical Academy 11th. They could be joined in the playoffs by league rivals Lamar and La Junta as well.
Bennett (4-2) at Faith Christian (5-1)
Sitting at 2-0 in the Flatirons and tied with D’Evelyn in first place, both teams remain in the running for a conference championship and a guaranteed playoff berth. A loss though puts both teams squarely on the wildcard bubble as the Eagles enter the game 12th in RPI and Bennett 15th.
Bennett has been shutout in both losses against Strasburg (14-0) and Delta (40-0). This week, they face a Faith Christian defense that has allowed just 26 points over the last five games. A win by the Eagles sets up a likely week ten showdown with D’Evelyn to determine the championship.
The Eagles defense has forced 18 turnovers including 10 fumble recoveries. Joel Burck has two of them and Michael Osgood also has two interceptions. Those two also top the team in tackles as Osgood has 29 and Burck 28.
Despite the shutouts, Bennett still features an explosive offense. They’ve scored at least 42 points in all four wins including back to back league wins over Arvada (42-6) and Middle Park (42-0). They’ve averaging nearly six yards per carry on the season.
Basalt (6-0) at Delta (5-1)
In wins over Moffat County (49-7) and Coal Ridge (34-0), Basalt has not been tested in league play that is scheduled to change starting this week. Following a road trip to Delta, the Longhorns then finish with Rifle and Aspen. Should they gain a win this week, their contest with Rifle next week could determine the league champion. The Bears outscored Delta 47-29 last week.
Delta opened the season with four dominating shutouts but the Panthers have given up 61 points over the last two weeks. They could not slow down the Rifle running game as the Bears totaled 352 yards and six touchdowns last week. Because of those numbers, don’t be surprised if the Longhorns try to establish the running game early.
On offense, the Panthers were limited to 88 yards on the ground. They ran the football just 19 times as they were forced to play from behind the entire game. Nolan Bynum completed 21 of 35 attempts for 253 yards and two scores but he also tossed his first interception of the season.
Basalt’s defense has been stingy in league play; allowing just 90 yards rushing to Moffat County and 96 to Coal Ridge. Those two opponents also combined for just 159 yards passing. Lander McNamee led the team with seven tackles against Moffat County and he added 11 more against Coal Ridge. Ernesto Lopez matched that number but the Longhorns were led by Jose Castorena with 12. They also forced two turnovers and had three sacks.
The outcome is also important to RPI. Basalt is 3rd this week and in line for the top overall playoff seed. Delta slid to 10th with last week’s loss but still seems very secure for a wildcard bid if they don’t land the Western Slope title.
Others to Watch
La Junta (4-2) at Lamar (4-2)
The Whistle Game is the second oldest rivarly in Colorado trailing only the Bell Game in Pueblo. This week the game serves as the undercard to Elizabeth-Classical Academy in the Tri Peaks but the outcome is still important to the league standings and RPI. Lamar is 8th in RPI and La Junta 14th. The winner moves into a second place tie with the loser of TCA-Elizabeth in the Tri Peaks standings.
La Junta has won four straight in the series but Lamar ended a three-year scoreless stretch in last year’s 34-21 loss. Before that game, the Savages have not scored against La Junta since picking up their last win: 39-13 in 2014.
The Tigers have had trouble putting points on the board; scoring just 12 in two league games. Now they face Lamar without starting QB Nathan Frankmore who is not expected to play. The Savages meantime average 40 points a game. The offense is led by QB Zane Rankin with 1,233 yards and 17 TD’s passing.
Arvada (3-3) at D’Evelyn (4-2)
With an 0-2 start in league play, Arvada is out of the Flatirons title chase but at 16th in RPI, the Bulldogs remain very much alive in the playoff talk. But after losing their last three to Englewood, Faith Christian and Bennett, the Bulldogs need to end that slide to stay in the discussion.
Winners of four straight, the Jags are headed in the opposite direction. They’re only 21st in RPI but with league games remaining against Faith Christian and Bennett, they basically control their own playoff hopes. Win out and they’re in and even with losses, the strength of schedule could still get them into the bracket.
Shane Bishop threw for 236 yards and three TD’s in last week’s win over Denver West. Six passes went to Thomas Lowry who finished with 100 yards and two scores.
Kent Denver (2-4) at Riverdale Ridge (3-3)
To be honest this game probably does not impact the playoff chase as the Ravens are 25th in RPI and Sun Devils 32nd but we mention the game to credit Riverdale Ridge with their first conference win in school history. It came last week against Machebeuf (15-13) and gives an indication that the program is indeed on the rise. Braylon Fenderson ran for 101 yards in the win while freshman QB Aidan Burns threw for 103.
Kent Denver’s loss to Englewood probably cost the Sun Devils a playoff berth. Likely their only chance at a post-season trip is to win out and then hope that the Pirates somehow lose two league games. That’s not likely to happen.