Many playoff regulars join defending state champion Sterling in the race for the 2A state championship this year. Quarterfinal games are set for Saturday and all four shape up to be solid matchups. PHOTO BY DWIGHT SIVERSON
#1 Resurrection Christian (5-0) vs #8 Moffat County (4-1)
To gain the upset of the top seed, Moffat County must do what no other opponent has been able to this year and that’s dent the scoreboard. The Cougars defense has not allowed a point all season in rolling to five consecutive wins. It’s been an aggressive group that’s also scored seven touchdowns of their own including five interceptions that have been returned for scores. Eddie Lemos has returned two of them for touchdowns while AJ Goldfain has scored on an interception and fumble return.
The Cougars have also made quite a few plays behind the line of scrimmage. Tanner Applebee, the leading tackler with 45, has 18 stops behind the line of scrimmage with 8.5 sacks. Christian Scandrett has 40 tackles on the season with 12 coming for loss. Justin Hawthorne has nine tackles for loss and Goldfain seven. Hawthorne has also recorded four sacks.
On offense, Resurrection Christian gets chunk plays in the passing game especially on connections between Will Schrotenboer and Lemos. Schrotenboer has thrown for 722 yards with seven TD passes to Lemos who has caught 18 passes for 418 yards on the season.
While the Cougars have been enjoying blowouts all season, Moffat County has had to battle through tight games to make the bracket. They beat Elizabeth by 14 points, Woodland Park by four and Delta by six. All are part of a four-game winning streak following an opening loss to 1A qualifier Meeker.
The Bulldogs average 315 yards a game offensively and about two-thirds of it is on the ground. Caleb Frink, with 503 yards and five touchdowns, gets a big share of the carries. Ryan Peck provides balance with 437 yards and six scores in the air. One key this week is to maintain possession. The Bulldogs have committed eight turnovers in four games played on the field.
Joseph Campagna (39), Taran Teeter (30), Logan Hafey (28) are the big play defenders. They’ve combined for 13 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and Hafey has chipped in five sacks; including a big one late to secure the win over Delta.
- PLAYOFF HISTORY: This is the first ever playoff meeting between the two clubs. Resurrection Christian is in the 2A bracket for the fifth consecutive season and is making an 8th straight postseason appearance overall. They’ve lost in the semifinals each of the last two years but a win this week gets them back to the Final Four. They are 13-8 all-time in playoff action. Moffat County has qualified for the second straight year but seeks their first postseason win since 2004. They beat Pueblo County (42-7) in the first round that season. The Bulldogs are 15-20 all-time including one trip to the finals (1967).
#4 Pagosa Springs (5-0) vs #5 Eaton (4-2)
Even in the COVID shortened 2020 season, Pagosa Springs was able to match their win total from last year when they finished 5-5. The Pirates have been very good this season as only one of their games (Lamar) was decided by less than 20 points. Against Lamar, Pagosa trailed in the first half but scored twice in the closing minutes of the first half to regain the lead. They then put the game away on a Dylan Tressler touchdown burst late in the fourth quarter.
Running behind a very offensive line, Tressler has been crucial to the Pirates’ success. The senior has rushed for at 160 yards every game this year with a total of 1,052 for the season. He’s scored six touchdowns. Grant Aucoin is another threat. With 439 yards and eight touchdowns, he supplemented Tressler in the running attack and also added 432 yards and five scores through the air. His main target was Mitch Lewis who enters the playoffs with 18 catches for 330 yards including two trips to the end zone.
Lewis is also a big factor defensively with seven tackles behind the line of the scrimmage. His 31 tackles overall are third on the team behind Aaron Aucoin and Caleb Laverty who each have 34. Another key defender is Aidan O’Donnell. He’s collected four interceptions to help the Pirates gain a dozen takeaways.
Eaton’s record is a bit deceiving as their quality losses to Sterling and Platte Valley have come by a combined 10 points. A win in either may have put the Reds at home this week instead of making the long trip to the Southwest part of the state. They look to bounce back from last week’s frustrating 41-35 loss to Platte Valley where the Reds jumped to a quick 14-0 advantage but couldn’t hold the lead.
Offensive balance is their strength. The Reds have over 1,400 yards rushing on the season including three runners with at least 400; Ethan Florez, Salvador Rojas and Scott Grable. Grable is the QB and also provided 532 yards and five touchdowns passing. Gage Butler (13) and Juan Maravilla (11) combined for 24 catches in the regular season with Maravilla scoring three times.
Defensively, the Reds will look to the likes of Florez and Morgan Tribbett to break through the strong Pagosa Springs offensive front. Florez leads the Reds with 47 tackles; Tribbett has 35 including 2.5 sacks. Ryan Dirksen also provided three sacks this year. Butler has been involved in five turnovers including four interceptions. Dirk Duncan also has two picks.
- PLAYOFF HISTORY: The Pirates and Reds have met once previously but the matchup came almost two decades ago (2001). Eaton won that battle 35-7. Pagosa Springs last won a postseason game in 2008; beating Manitou Springs 40-7. They’ve lost five straight games since including first round games to Delta in 2019 and La Junta in 2017. Both opponents went on to reach the state championship game. The Pirates are 13-26 all-time in playoff football. Eaton has taken part in 67 playoff games; winning 36. Their last wins occurred in 2017 when they topped both Sterling and Platte Valley on their way to the semifinals. They were bounced from the bracket in the opening round the last two years in losses to Lamar (2019) and Rifle (2018).
#2 Sterling (5-0) vs #7 Lamar (5-1)
This is the lone rematch of the 2019 state quarterfinals as the Tigers scored a 40-0 decision over the Savages on their way to the championship. Sterling jumped to a quick 25-0 lead and were not pushed the rest of the way so the Savages look to avenge that loss on Saturday.
To do so, Lamar must find a way to defend the talented group of receivers heavily involved in the Sterling offense. That group is headed by up by Tucker Myers with 23 catches for 602 yards and seven touchdowns. Jared Keil, with 14 catches including six touchdowns and Peyton Rose (16-116-1) prevent defenses from ganging up on Myers. Because of those three players, Lamar will likely give up some passing yardage but must tackle well to prevent long scoring plays.
Two quarterbacks have seen considerable action for Sterling. Raden McCracken got the start in the Tigers final game; a win over Weld Central and finished the year with 588 yards and nine TDs. Kaeden Sheets added 310 yards and five touchdowns and also got a couple of starts.
On defense, Rose has the most tackles (47) but there is plenty of support from Keaton Knaub (44) and Brady Albrandt (39). They combined for 16 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and were also key players in last year’s drive to the state title.
Other than the tough loss at Pagosa Springs where penalties and turnovers got the best of them, Lamar has been explosive on offense this year. They scored at least 34 points in all five wins and totaled 211 for the season.
QB Zane Rankin is the key. He leads Lamar in passing (1,178) and rushing yardage (417) and has been involved in 19 touchdowns. Jesus Reyes (374) and Damian Ramos (331) are additional threats on the ground and have combined for nine scores. Blake Buxton has nine touchdowns on 26 catches and averages 25 yards per reception. Ramos, with 17 receptions for 250 yards, also is a factor in that part of the offense.
The Savages have forced a whopping 19 turnovers this year including four interceptions from Ramos. Rankin has two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Devyn Kincaide and Javier Gonzalez have also scooped up two fumbles. With 55, Kincaide is the top tackler; recording 18 more than any other teammate.
- PLAYOFF HISTORY: In addition to last year’s quarterfinal matchup, the Tigers and Savages also squared off in 1994 with Sterling gaining the win (34-14). Sterling’s championship a year ago was the first in the school history and the four wins to get there boosted their postseason mark to 18-25. 10 of those wins have been recorded since 2004. Lamar made their first playoff appearance in 1921 but has just 16 wins compared to 32 losses. Their opening round win over Eaton last year (21-7) was their first in the playoffs since 1995. That season is also the last time the Savages earned a trip to the semifinals. Lamar has two state championships; 1955 & 1961.
#3 Platte Valley (5-1) vs #6 Delta (4-1)
Both programs have enjoyed recent playoff success and frustration. Delta won three games in the bracket a year ago before falling to Sterling in the finals. Platte Valley suffered through the same fate in 2018 as they won their first three before coming up short to La Junta in the state championship contest. Now they collide in the state quarterfinals with the winner moving one step away from a return to the final game of the year. The teams are also familiar with one another as Platte Valley downed the Panthers 45-21 in the bracket just two years ago.
Based on the combined 89 points over the last two games, the Platte Valley offense may be peaking at the right time. QB Kade McDaniel draws a lot of the headlines but the offense has quite a bit of versatility. McDaniel amassed 486 yards of offense with four touchdowns against Wray and was crucial in gaining the victory. Against Eaton, Bobby Fernandez of the Greeley Tribune reported McDaniel managed 171 yards of offense but the focus on him defensively allowed space for Logan Curtis to rumble for 211 yards and two scores. Other weapons include Weston Meyer (302 yards rushing) and Devyn Lauer (6 TD’s receiving).
Quarterback play will also be important for Delta as they again turn to Nathan Scharnhorst. He replaced Nolan Bynum in week four after the all-stater went down with a season ending injury. In six quarters since, Scharnhorst has completed 14 of 23 passes for 218 yards and two TD’s but Saturday marks his first playoff start.
Timothy Horn could also get many attempts running the football this weekend. The senior leads the Panthers with 436 yards and two touchdowns and he has playoff experience from last year. Top receivers include Colbi Braslin (25-425-4) and Noah Nortnik (15-222-2).
A big strength for Delta is their defense which helped them win three playoff games a year ago. That until is led by James Goff (57) and Hunter Goff (52) who have combined for 109 tackles. Colton Johnson is a close third with 50. They have seven sacks on the season and look to use some of that pressure to contain McDaniel
Platte Valley’s defense allowed 129 points over six games but made enough plays when called upon. They’ve forced 12 turnovers including a combined seven interceptions from Lauer (4) and Ty Uyemura (3).
- PLAYOFF HISTORY: The 2018 contest is the lone playoff matchup between the two programs. Platte Valley has played in four state championship games since 2012; winning the top trophy in 2013. They’ve won seven of their last eight opening playoff games with the exception coming in 2016 where they fell to Resurrection Christian (30-20). The Broncos are 28-16 in playoff action with 22 of those wins coming since 2006. A win this weekend moves Delta into the semifinals for the fifth time since 2013. Their trip to the finals a year ago was the fourth in school history with their lone title coming in 1960. They have won 22 playoff games and lost 27 overall.