Week 10 brings football teams in Class 3A their first chance to officially clinch league championships and three clubs have that opportunity this week. Palisade, Roosevelt and Durango are those three clubs and each will earn the top trophy inside their conference with victories; and all three are favored to get the job done.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY GLENWOOD SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL
Palisade probably has the most difficult task as they face a Glenwood Springs club that is getting healthy and making a late season push for their own playoff berth. Their solid 35-20 win over Eagle Valley last week snapped a four game losing streak and bumped them back to 17th in RPI.
Joaquin Sandoval had a big game in the win as the sophomore quarterback threw for 121 yards and a touchdown and also scored three times on the ground. Senior Blake Nieslanik saw his first action since the opening game against Harrison and ran for 49 yards on eight carries. He could see even more carries against their long-time rivals.
Palisade also saw the return of a key running back as Franklin Barks was on the field for the first time in five weeks and he responded with a season 109 yards in the 62-26 win over Steamboat Springs. The win gave the Bulldogs the outright conference lead and put them in position to clinch this week.
Overall, Palisade ran for a whopping 421 yards and eight touchdowns in the win. Malakhi Espinoza (153 yards) and Phallen Salvati (51) each scored three touchdowns and combined for 204 yards. The Bulldogs defense held to Steamboat to just nine yards rushing on six attempts. QB Jake Hamric did throw for 390 yards and four touchdowns.
The loss dropped Steamboat to 6-2 on the season and 15th in RPI. They look to bounce back against Battle Mountain on Friday.
Summit (19th) and Eagle Valley (22nd) are two other league teams trying to stay in playoff contention. They meet on Friday. The Tigers rebounded well from the tough Palisade loss to blast Battle Mountain 47-0. Jack Schierholz hit 15 of 20 passes for 193 yards and four touchdowns. Aidan Collins caught five passes with three crossing the goal line.
Eagle Valley has lost four straight since a 3-0 start. That includes league losses to Steamboat Springs, Battle Mountain and Glenwood Springs. They also face Palisade in the final week so their path to the playoffs is a rocky one.
Roosevelt has beaten Mead, Northridge and Fort Morgan over the past three weeks and now a win over Niwot gives them the North Central 3 championship. Last week’s win over Fort Morgan (14-7) kept them unbeaten overall and at the top of the RPI standings. Two more wins should give them the top overall playoff seed in Class 3A.
Niwot snapped a two-game slide with a solid 28-21 win over Mountain View last week. They sit at 4-4 on the season and have compiled their most wins in a season since going 7-4 in 2008. Despite missing leading rusher Thomas Carnagie, the Cougars still ran for 243 yards against Mountain View. QB Ben Claasen contributed 96 but the biggest boost came from Osman Ochoa. He had just 61 yards on the season before picking up a game high 120 in last week’s win.
Roosevelt again used a strong second half to get by Fort Morgan. The Riders trailed 7-6 at halftime and had not scored a touchdown; instead settling for two field goals from Kelly Parham. They broke past the goal line in the fourth quarter on a run by Ryan Doucette. He finished with 89 yards and the Riders ran for 191 in the win. Brock Saya also threw for 184 yards with Keaton Kaiser and Tucker Peterson both catching six passes.
With Roosevelt favored to clinch the championship, the key game in the conference may be between Northridge and Fort Morgan. As mentioned, both clubs have a league loss to the Roughriders so the winner is alone in second. Playoff seeding is also factor. Fort Morgan actually stayed put at #2 in RPI with last week’s effort against Roosevelt and the Grizzlies are 12th and in position for their first playoff berth since 2014.
Northridge lost to Roosevelt 62-19 two weeks ago but showed little effects in last week’s 53-0 rout of Skyview. The Grizzlies totaled 312 yards of offense against Roosevelt but also surrendered 623. Both sides were better last week as the defense posted their second shutout and the offense ran for 295 with both Isaac Kness (120) and Damon West (114) getting past the century mark.
Durango is scheduled to face Mitchell this week but we’re checking on if that game will be played. The Marauders had to pull out of last week’s game with Discovery Canyon last week and we haven’t heard if they will step on the field against the Demons this weekend. UPDATE: The game has been cancelled. A forfeit or no-contest still allows the Demons to win the Southern 1 championship as they lead Discovery Canyon and Harrison by one game in the league standings and have beaten both. Mitchell is 0-6.
Concerning the playoffs, Durango is 8th in RPI but fifth in the unofficial Colorado Preps consensus rankings. They may fall a bit in both categories as Mitchell will provide a hit to their strength of schedule but it’s likely the Demons will be at home in round one. Their only in-state loss is against 4A #1 Montrose. In league play, they’ve beaten Harrison, Discovery Canyon and Sierra by a whopping 148-0.
Thomas Jefferson took over the top spot in the Denver Prep league by downing George Washington (27-18) last week. They look to stay there against Denver North this week. The Vikings though could be a tough out as they sit tied with Riverdale Ridge and GW in second place (all at 2-1). Their lone league loss came against Riverdale Ridge (45-20) so they likely need a win to stay in the title contention.
Since that loss, the Vikings have scored 110 points in wins over Kennedy (55-48) and Lincoln (55-0). In the wild win over Kennedy, QB Frankie Dardano threw for 275 yards and five TDs including two apiece to Keith McInnis and Jayden Gonzales. Rickie Burg also ran for 194 yards and two scores.
The running game pushed TJ to their win last week as they generated 329 yards and four touchdowns. QB Austin Lindegren was the leading rusher going in and stayed atop the list with another 124 yards and two scores. He also threw for 68. Jake Tapia added 82 yards rushing and Dmitri Haralambopoulous 72.
The league as a whole could qualify only their league champion into the playoffs. Thomas Jefferson is that team right now but the Spartans are just 20th in RPI. George Washington is actually two spots higher (18th) with Riverdale Ridge 23rd and Denver North 31st.
Pueblo South used a blocked extra point in the fourth quarter to salvage a 20-19 win over Pueblo East in the Cannon Game last week. That block turned away a fourth quarter rally by the Eagles who at one point in the game trailed 20-7. The win though left the Colts alone in first in the South Central 1 and they’ll look to stay there with a win against Pueblo Central this week. The Colts cannot clinch the title with a win unless Pueblo County also loses and that’s not likely since the Hornets face winless Pueblo Centennial. Pueblo County and Pueblo East share second place at 2-1.
Jace Bellah had another huge game for Pueblo South last week; running for two touchdowns and returning an interception 70 yards for a third score. The senior also threw for 118 yards. Pueblo East produced 250 yards rushing in the loss including 112 from Blake Nazario.
The North Central 1 championship won’t be decided this week. Lutheran and Green Mountain are both 3-0 and don’t play until week 11. Regardless of how those two fare this weekend, both will remain in the title chase going into the final week.
Lutheran has outscored eight opponents 414-50 and meets Lewis Palmer on Friday. Green Mountain is coming off a 68-8 win over Littleton and goes to Conifer for a Friday afternoon kickoff (4:00pm).
Mead gained a huge 35-32 win over Holy Family last week and with it, is now alone in first in the North Central 2 race. Both teams showed offensive balance as Mead finished with 221 yards passing and 209 on the ground. Holy Family countered with 210 rushing and 205 through the air. The difference was the fourth quarter where Mead used a final drive to tick away the final six and half minutes off the clock. Evan Morris ran for 172 yards on 31 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Despite the result, Holy Family (4th) remains ahead of the Mavericks (5th) in the RPI standings. A third league member, Frederick, is also a likely playoff team as the Warriors are 13th. Mead cannot clinch the league title this week unless Frederick is upset by Mountain View (2-6). Mead and Frederick battle in the final week.
Mead this week hosts Thompson Valley and Holy Family tangles with Skyview.