When the preseason polls were released, the top two spots in six-man were owned by Stratton/Liberty (11-1) and Kit Carson (12-0). Now, on the final weekend of the season, those two teams will square off for the state championship in Stratton. For the Knighted Eagles, its the second straight title game appearance and their third in the last six years. They won the title in 2013 (44-40 over Hi-Plains) and lost last year’s contest, 38-28 to Peetz. This is just Kit Carson’s second time in the state championship game and the first since falling to Peetz in 1995.
This will be a regular season rematch, as Kit Carson took a 28-22 victory over the Knighted Eagles back on October 26th. TJ Conaway threw for 113 yards and three touchdowns, as the Wildcats outscored Stratton/Liberty 14-10 in the fourth quarter to claim the victory in the final game of the regular season. Stratton/Liberty had seized the edge in the fourth quarter after recording a safety and scoring a touchdown on the ensuing possession, but the Wildcats stormed back to earn the win.
Cordell Farmer, Sullivan Farmer, and Chris Bryan all caught touchdown passes from Conaway, but the biggest reception came late in the game by Peter Hornung. The big junior hauled in a short dump off and rumbled 22 yards to set up a score. The Wildcats did not have their regular success on the ground, being limited to 97 yards on 29 plays. Joe Bryan provided much of that production, gaining 82 yards and a scoring a TD on 21 carries.
Stratton/Liberty piled up 297 yards on 34 running plays, led by Eltan Yarger’s 111 yards. Ethan Richmond added 85 yards and Jaret Lichty supplied 83. All three scored one touchdown. The Knighted Eagles only attempted six passes in the contest.
Kit Carson earned its way into the title game by outscoring opponents 611-131 this season. That includes a 148-45 margin in the postseason. The Wildcats knocked off North Park 50-9 in the opening round and followed that up with a 54-22 victory over Fleming in the quarterfinals. Last week, they ended the season of Arickaree/Woodlin with a 44-14 decision in the semis.
The Knighted Eagles come in averaging 61.3 points a game, posting 735 on the season, while allowing a total of 199. Their road through the postseason includes wins over Manzanola (68-0), Granada (66-22), and Peetz (59-20).
Conaway entered the season as one of the top returning passers and the senior has registered 846 yards and 22 touchdowns, with only one interception. Cordell Farmer has added 224 yards and and two TDs without an interception. As a team, the Wildcats have thrown for 1100 yards, 25 touchdowns, and just the one interception. Farmer leads the team in receptions (20), yards (325), and is tied with Chris Bryan for the team lead in touchdowns (9). Bryan is second in catches and yards.
Kit Carson has rushed for almost twice as many yards as it has amassed through the air, grinding out 2196. Joe Bryan has accounted for 1020 of those and 19 of the team’s 43 touchdowns. Cordell Farmer proves his versatility by being second on the squad with 377 yards on the ground, while Daniel Arnold (332 yards) and Jayden McCombs-Farmer (279 yards) make the Wildcats a very solid four-deep at the position. McCombs-Farmer has been limited to just five games this season due to an injury.
Defensively, the Wildcats are led by Cordell Farmer, who has recorded 122 tackles, six sacks, and five fumble recoveries. Conaway (98) and Joe Bryan (96) are both on pace to reach triple digits, as well. Those two have combined for seven interceptions and five fumble recoveries. As a team, Kit Carson has scored 16 non-offensive touchdowns, four by Joe Bryan. Arnold, Conaway, and Cordell Farmer each have three.
Stratton/Liberty leans heavily on its running game, with close to 3800 yards, compared to under 700 through the air. Tyson Lichty has 600 of the team’s 667 passing yards, with 19 touchdowns and two interceptions. Zeke Craig has completed five passes in a back-up role, but three have gone for scores. Levi Shean is the top target, hauling in 16 balls for 202 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In the running attack, opponents have to pick their poison. Jaret Lichty leads the way with 1271 yards and 24 TDs while Richmond has registered 1192 yards and 19 scores. Despite missing three games, Yarger still has over 700 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Shean leads a very aggressive defense with 101 tackles and four fumble recoveries. Jaret Lichty is right on his heels with 97 tackles and he has a team-leading seven interceptions. Yarger (88), Trevor Frank (85), and Tyson Lichty (82) are all over 80 stops on the season. Frank and Richmond share the team lead in sacks with nine apiece. The Knighted Eagles have tallied a dozen non-offensive touchdowns this year, four by Owen Clapper. Three of those have been on kick-off returns.
With both teams having dangerous return men, the kicking game will be a key factor in the contest. Conaway has recorded 42 touchbacks on 90 kicks, averaging just over 46 yards per kick, while Ignacio Baixis has put 42 of his 60 kicks into the end zone for Stratton/Liberty. He also averages just over 46 yards on his kicks.
Saturday’s game will kick-off at 1pm.>