When the preseason polls were released, fans turned to their team’s schedule and started circling big match-ups. This weekend, one of the most anticipated contests will be played as #1 Stratton/Liberty visits #2 Otis, headlining the slate of action.
The Knighted Eagles knew they would get every team’s top effort this season after nearly running the table in 2017 and opening this season in the top spot. Toby Kechter’s squad has been up to the challenge, defeating a pair of ranked opponents by lopsided margins in its first three games. Stratton/Liberty has knocked off Prairie, Hanover, and Peetz by a combined score of 198-50.
Otis, who opened the season #3, has also defeated ranked opponents in two of its three games to date. The Bulldogs overcame a first half deficit to down Peetz 64-43 in week one and scored late last Friday to edge Flagler/Hi-Plains 59-55. Sandwiched between was a 69-18 victory over Genoa-Hugo in which the Bulldogs pulled away from an 18-all tie.
The Knighted Eagles won a pair of meetings with Otis last season, racing to a 63-6 victory during the regular season, and then having to come from behind in the playoffs to triumph by a 40-32 tally. The winner of Friday night’s game becomes the favorite in the East Central.
That division has another key clash this Friday as #4 Flagler/Hi-Plains visits #8 Idalia. The Thunder gained a spot in the rankings after its strong performance against Otis last week and they come in at 2-1 on the season. Idalia also made a move in the rankings, coming from outside the top-10 after defeating former #8 Briggsdale 46-19 last Friday.
The Thunder has scored at least 55 points in all three games and averages 435 yards of offense a game. Of that total 301 comes on the ground. Idalia is averaging 45 points in its two wins, but the Wolves were held to just 14 in a loss to #5 Cheyenne Wells. Idalia won last year’s game 46-41, while the Thunder took the win two seasons ago, 30-12.
Third-ranked Kit Carson has allowed a total of 20 points through three games, the second fewest in the classification. The Wildcats faced ranked teams in their first two games and won by a collective score of 123-14. They opened South East division play with a 70-6 victory over Eads last week, and will look to improve to 2-0 when they visit Cheraw on Friday. The Wolverines evened their record at 1-1 with a 38-18 win over La Veta last week. The Wildcats have won the last 11 contests in the series.
Another big contest in the South East sees Cheyenne Wells visiting Granada. The Tigers are 3-0 and enter the game having scored a season-high 55 in a win over Walsh last week. Quade Pelton threw for 160 yards and four touchdowns and also rushed for 141 yards and two scores.
They challenge a Granada squad that scored a season-high in a 76-56 loss to #9 Arickaree/Woodlin last week. The Bobcats led 22-8 after the first quarter and were tied at 44 heading into the fourth. Arickaree/Woodlin scored two non-offensive touchdowns in the final frame to pull away for the victory. Granada is averaging 50 points a game this season, but is 1-2.
Sixth-ranked Prairie can strengthen its spot at the top of the North division when the Mustangs host Fleming on Friday. The Mustangs are already 2-0 in the division after wins over Briggsdale and North Park the last two weeks. After being held to 23 points by Stratton/Liberty in the season opener, Prairie has 120 the last two games.
Fleming picked up its first win of the season last week when it downed Weldon Valley, 69-12. That put the Wildcats at 1-1 in the division, while also handing the Warriors their first defeat of the campaign. After playing one of the most difficult schedules last season, the Wildcats are on track to do the same this year, with this being their third game against a ranked opponent in four outings. Prairie won last year’s game at Fleming on a field goal as time expired.
Peetz (#7) is just 1-2, but the lone win came inside the North division against Fleming. All three games for the Bulldogs so far have been against ranked opponents, but that trend ends this Saturday as they visit North Park. Their two losses have come against the top two teams in the rankings, and the Bulldogs allowed at least 60 points in both games. North Park has been outscored 100-52 in its two losses this season.
Mountain Valley staked its claim to the early lead in the South West by knocking off former #10 Cotopaxi 68-14 last week. Salvador Vigil sparked the offense with 231 yards and five TDs through the air, while Isaih Wellman added 223 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Friday afternoon, the Indians visit Sierra Grande with an opportunity to all but lock up the division title. They will need to overcome recent history, as the Panthers have won the last three meetings by a combined score of 165-62. Only the last two game in six-man. Sierra Grande becomes the league favorite with a victory.
Manzanola is undefeated but unranked. This week, the Bobcats are in the group receiving votes and they have a chance to go 2-0 in the South Central. Manzanola hosts Primero on Friday and a win makes the Bobcats the heavy favorite. They have outscored opponents 149-42, while Primero has been outscored 122-13.