A very good menu of games in week one for small school football fans. The six man schedule includes three top 10 matchups between Stratton-Prairie, Genoa Hugo-Eads and Idalia-Cheraw while eight man is headlined by pairings of Sedgwick County-Dundy County NE and Hoehne-John Mall. Sedgwick County has captured a record six consecutive state titles but they face a Nebraska opponent also coming off a state crown last Fall. Hoehne topped John Mall to win the Season C title last May and they begin the season back on the field together in week one.
Below is our picks for top games in each of the two divisions. Colorado Preps will recap the action in all classes as the Scoreboard Show returns for a 19th year on the Colorado Preps Radio Network.
Stratton at Prairie: The Eagles are ranked fourth and Mustangs fifth so the week one battle will be very important to the playoff bracket when November arrives. The contest also marks Stratton as a stand-alone program as their coop with Liberty has ended. They return a starting QB and two running backs from a club that reached the state final last year. Andy Long returns to lead the Prairie offense after throwing for over 1200 yards in the COVID shortened season last Fall.
Genoa Hugo at Eads: Another very early season clash featuring top 10 teams wanting to earn some RPI points for playoff positioning. The Pirates are ranked 9th and the Eagles 10th in the preseason. Genoa Hugo returns two senior RBs in Wyatt Miller and Colby Simmons and starting QB Trey Smith. Eads graduated the very talented Damian Ba:rnes but sophomore Porter Spady could take over many of his duties.
Kit Carson at Cotopaxi (Saturday): This game was initially on our list but has been postponed as Cotopaxi is unable to play this week due to COVID. The Wildcats though have picked up another game with Sierra Grande on Saturday as the Panthers were slated to face Primero in their opener but that too was wiped out by COVID.
Idalia at Cheraw (Saturday): A third top ten encounter on the opening weekend as the Wolverines are sixth and the Wolves eighth in preseason rankings. Idalia played just four games last Fall and get back leading rushers Yahir Enriquez and Kye Towns along with QB Eduardo Estrada. Cheraw was 14 points away from a perfect 6-0 regular season last Fall. Cade Phillips is the key returnee as he threw 27 TDs in those six games.
North Park at Mountain Valley (Saturday): Neither team is in the preseason rankings but the outcome could become more important to the playoffs as the regular season weeks tick off. Both clubs routinely push for spots in the playoff bracket. Mountian Valley was 4-1 a year ago but missed out on the reduced postseason bracket. One key returnee is sophomore Ziah Pesqueria who recorded 71 tackles as a freshman. North Park lost just one player from last year’s 3-3 club and hopes to use that experience to gain quality wins in the rugged North conference.
Dundy County NE at Sedgwick County (Thursday): May not be able to beat this matchup in any class as it features two returning state champions from last Fall. The border rivals were scheduled to meet in the opener last year but with the delay in Colorado football, the game could not be played. Sedgwick County has won 26-straight games and has dropped just two overall while winning the last six state championships. Brody Parker is the main weapon for the Cougars as he gained over 800 yards a year ago.
Swink at Holly: Based on rankings, the sixth ranked Wildcats are favored but this has a chance to be a very good game. Swink is not included in the top 10 to start the season but the Lions won five of six games last year with a late loss keeping them out of the eight-team playoff bracket. Hunter Bauserman combined for 464 yards of offense as a freshman QB and his numbers should improve in year two as the starter. Numbers are huge for the Wildcats as they could dress over 30 kids on Friday. QB Dayne Eaton is a senior start with his top three targets, Fernando Dominguez, Josue Avalos and Colby Swopes all returning as well.
Crowley County at Sanford: We realize it’s difficult not to vote a six-time returning champion number one in the preseason but a case could be made to put Sanford in the top spot this week. The Indians got all the way to the state finals last year and played well in a loss to Sedgwick County and now they return almost their entire lineup for 2021. The headliner of course is Dalton Gartrell who ran for over 13-hundred yards and 23 TDs as a junior. Tuff Gibson succeeds Brandon Roe as head coach at Crowley County and with Merino DNA, he will continue the toughness displayed by the Chargers in the past. It’s a tough test for his first game with the Ordway based school as they will try to slow down Gartrell and the speed of the Indians.
Hoehne at John Mall: This is a quick rematch of the Spring championshp game won by the Farmers 64-40. Both teams were senior oriented and each will need new faces to quickly step up and contribute. One exception could be Elton Chavez for John Mall. He scored a whopping five TDs for the Panthers in last May’s state championshp game. Leaders for Hoehne will likely beat Dario Vezzani and Michael Armijo.
Calhan at West Grand: This game cracked our list based on two reasons. First, West Grand has great tradition and is likely chomping at the bit to get on the field after playing just three games last Fall. Second, coaches have told us to keep an eye on Calhan as they should be improved in 2021. They were 3-3 a year ago and return offensive talent in Ryan Campbell and Zach Peterson. West Grand should have a solid defense to build around thanks to the return of Wyatt Powell, Jacob Murphy and Wyatt Shearer.
Dayspring Christian at Springfield (Saturday): Springfield looks to build on two wins to close the 2020 season and may have to rely on defense with returnees Jason Campbell, Kyler Crane, Treven Batterton and Cooper Stolebarger. They will face an Eagles team that graduated four-year starting QB Christian Still. Dayspring should also be strong on the defensive side as the top four tacklers, Jacob Martin, Austin Cecil, Wyatt Eichman and Garrett Krehbeil, are all expected to return.