3A football fans will start to see conference races start of develop with results from this week. On the schedule are several matchups of teams that earned league opening wins last week but the loser this week will fall off the pace. Other games are also very important to the RPI standings which are also becoming more important as each week slides by.
Thomas Jefferson (5-1) at Discovery Canyon (5-1)
A very important game inside the Central as both teams are trying to replace Palmer Ridge as the league champion. It’s also critical to RPI standings as the Spartans are up to 6th in the rankings this week with Discovery Canyon 11th. Both are coming off solid league opening wins as TJ downed Lewis Palmer 20-6 and DCC rolled Littleton 45-6.
The matchup begins a critical stretch for Thomas Jefferson as they have Palmer Ridge on deck next week. Lutheran is still waiting down the road, but one would think wins in the next two weeks would give the league title to the Spartans. They’re seeking a third consecutive post-season bid.
Their pass defense was very good against Lewis Palmer last week as they allowed the Rangers just one completion in 11 attempts. The Spartans also intercepted.
But this week, TJ may need to focus more on the ground game as the Thunder average a whopping 362 yards there. Marshall Pike averages over 177 per game on his own and leads the Thunder with 886 yards and 12 TD’s.
Kennedy (3-3) at Conifer (6-0)
Following their huge win over Green Mountain last week, Conifer may need to avoid a letdown to stay atop the Mt Metro standings. It was an emotion-filled win as the Lobos twice rallied from 14-point deficits in the first quarter. They climbed back with 28 second quarter points and then took control with 14 more in the third.
Despite the victory, there may be some concerns on defense as the Lobos surrendered 499 yards to Green Mountain. Kennedy will try to take advantage behind the talents of Elias Horta, Shawn Salazar and Isaac Sisneros. Horta ran for 124 yards and two scores as Kennedy topped Lincoln 62-8 last week. Salazar added 63 yards and three TD’s while Sisneros tossed three TD passes.
Conifer sits 2nd in RPI so the Lobos are in great shape for the playoffs even if they stumble in league play down the stretch. Kennedy is currently 23rd and needs some wins to get back into the playoff chase.
Holy Family (3-3) at Frederick (6-0)
This is a very attractive pairing in the North Metro as both teams could use a win to improve their RPI standing and keep pace with Mead in the conference standings. Frederick is unbeaten but only 10th in RPI while Holy Family is up to 16th despite the 3-3 overall mark. The difference is schedule strength. Frederick’s opponents have won just 34 percent of their games while the Tigers have faced clubs with a winning percentage of nearly 60 percent.
The key here could be Holy Family’s ability to slow down talented Frederick QB Jake Green. He combined for 214 yards and four touchdowns in limited touches in last week’s win over Northfield 45-7. Green is closing in on 15-hundred yards of offense and has been involved in 22 scores on the year.
Justin Trostel (51 tackles) and Ryan Biehler (50) pace the Tigers defense. The unit has 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks on the season but have just six takeaways. They may need a couple more against the Warriors this week.
Pueblo Central (5-1) at Durango (4-2)
It was a big hurdle to jump over for Central last week as they moved past Pueblo County 21-7. The Wildcats entered league play last year with a 4-1 mark but failed to post a conference win. They got past that obstacle with a great defensive effort against the Hornets as they posted just their third league win since 2014.
Central was outgained 397-146 in yardage last week but came up with four key turnovers. They kept the Hornets out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. Austin Allenback also returned a punt for a touchdown in the win.
That defense will be tested even more this week against a Durango team that has scored at least 50 points in three straight including a 52-10 rout of Pueblo Centennial last week. Over the last three, the Demons have thrown for 624 yards with 12 TD”s and run for 812 yards and nine scores. QB Jordan Woolverton tossed five TD passes last week, his second game with at least five this season, and finished with 275 yards on the night. He also gained 104 yards and two scores on just six rushing attempts.
Central has not made the playoffs since 2012 and a win this week assures them of a first winning season since that year. A win also gives them six for the year which would match their combined total of the past three seasons.
Harrison (5-1) at Canon City (1-5)
The Panthers won all five conference games last year by at least 42 points and gave up just 14 points against league foes. They’re again expected to run through the slate unblemished but Canon City could be one of their more difficult tests. THe Tigers have just one win but they’ve played a strong schedule to this point. They were also the only league team to dent the scoreboard against Harrison last year (58-14) as the Panthers posted shutouts in the other four contests.
Harrison opened the conference schedule with a 41-17 win over Falcon last week. They picked up 213 yards rushing including 127 from Kahli Dotison who also scored twice. Jaseim Mitchell threw for 185 yards and two TD’s.
Canon City clubbed Sand Creek 30-6 last week for their first win of 2019. Raymond Cammell totaled 231 yards and three TD’s on the ground and he may need a similar game for the Tigers to upset the Panthers this week.
Others to Watch
Palisade (3-3) at Glenwood Springs (1-5)
This is the same scenario on the Western Slope as the Harrison-Canon City matchup. Palisade is expected to roll through the league schedule but Glenwood Springs, because of their tough schedule, may step up as the biggest challenger.
The Demons suffered through a winless non-conference slate that involved losses to Harrison, Conifer, Rifle, Roosevelt and Holy Family. Combined those opponents have won 64 percent of their games which has kept Glenwood Springs near the top 25 of RPI (27th). The Demons topped Eagle Valley 24-12 last week.
Palisade has dropped to 14th in RPI and may be hurt some more by a lackluster league slate. The Bulldogs, due to the lackluster league schedule, could fall out of the top 16 but still get into the playoff bracket as a league champion. The concern is where such a situation would place them in the bracket as they would not be assured of a home game in round one.
The Bulldogs handled Steamboat Springs 45-7 last week as Cam Tucker ran for 42 yards on four carries and threw for 103 yards and two scores.
Fort Morgan (4-2) at Northridge (4-2)
The records are identical but the playoff status for each team is a bit different. Fort Morgan is 12th in RPI and is coming off a tremendous 28-27 overtime win over Roosevelt. Northridge is 18th in RPI and dropped their conference opener to Erie 35-7. The difference in RPI is again attributed to strength of schedule as the Mustangs have played six opponents who have won 61 percent of their games compared to just 38 percent for the Grizzlies.
Jacob Ortega caught two touchdown passes in Fort Morgan’s win last week. But the key play came from Frank Ortega as he returned a kickoff for a touchdown right after the Riders had taken a 21-14 advantage late in the fourth quarter.
Northridge totaled just 89 yards rushing and 51 passing in last week’s loss. They also allowed Erie 21 second quarter points and couldn’t recover.
Lewis Palmer (3-3) at Lutheran (4-2)
Despite week one losses in league losses, both teams are very much alive for a playoff berth but each could use a win to boost those chances. Lewis Palmer lost to Thomas Jefferson last week but still sits 15th in RPI. Lutheran played Palmer Ridge very well for two and a half to three quarters before falling in the end. They’re 7th in RPI.