Several teams cleared some big hurdles last week, but in the penultimate round of the regular season, more obstacles await. Ranked clashes are on tap in the Central and North divisions, while Eads looks to stay unbeaten in the Southeast ahead of its contest with #5 Cheyenne Wells.
A combination of events led to Stratton/Liberty (6-0) becoming the new #1 team this week. First, last weekâ€™s top-ranked team, Peetz (4-1), fell on the road to #2 Prairie (6-0). Then, the Knighted Eagles defeated Cheyenne Wells (5-1) 53-6 last Saturday. It was the fifth time this season that Toby Kechterâ€™s squad scored at least 50 points in a game. Their season-low is 47.
The game with Cheyenne Wells was delayed 24 hours due to an issue with lights, but the Knighted Eagles came out ready to play. Stratton/Liberty built a 34-0 halftime lead and kept the Tigers off the board until the fourth. Jacob McCormick rushed for 212 yards and five touchdowns as the Knighted Eagles outgained Cheyenne Wells 333 to negative four on the ground.
Stratton/Liberty will host #3 Otis (6-0) in a showdown of the Central Divisionâ€™s top teams on Friday. The Bulldogs have steamrolled opponents this season to the tune of 338-65. The last three weeks theyâ€™ve recorded a shutout and allowed eight points in back to back games. Last week saw Bryce Miracle run for 289 yards and five TDs in a 57-8 win over Idalia. For the season, the junior has rushed for a classification best 937 yards and 20 touchdowns on only 47 carries. McCormick is third in yards with 812 and tied for second with 15 scores.
The Knighted Eagles have taken the last two meetings with Otis, including a 53-0 shutout last year. McCormick rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns in that win, and Stratton/Liberty also received 129 passing yards from Tyson Lichty on just four completions. Miracle was held to 33 yards on nine attempts.
Prairie took the lead in the North Division by scoring 14 points in the last two minutes of last weekâ€™s game against previously top-ranked Peetz. The Mustangs trailed 41-30 before scoring the last two touchdowns of the game, with the game winner coming with only 11.8 seconds left on the clock. Prairie relied heavily on its run game, amassing 394 yards on the ground in the victory. Coltin Hove accounted for 208 yards and three TDs, while Trenton Holzworth added 188 and two scores, including the game winner. Holzworth also tossed a short touchdown pass to Devin Boling.
The Mustangs will travel to Walden this weekend for a Saturday afternoon clash with #6 North Park (4-1). The Wildcats go into the contest knowing that a win could create a three-way tie for the league lead. They are currently part of a group one game behind Prairie, along with Peetz and Fleming, who meet on Friday. North Park owns the tiebreaker over Fleming, but Peetz holds the edge against them.
After having to work to the final horn in its first three wins of the season, North Park finally got to see the mercy clock work in its favor last week. The Wildcats scored early and often in a 56-8 victory at Weldon Valley (0-6). The scoring barrage included two touchdown runs each from Nic Martin and Blayden Fletcher, and two more TD passes from Austin Bertron to Bryce Carlstrom, giving them eight for the season.
After dropping the first two games in the series to Prairie, North Park has won the last two. Last yearâ€™s meeting was a 49-0 decision for the Wildcats. Prairieâ€™s head coach, Justin Kerns, served as AD at North Park during the 2013-14 school year and helped coach most of the Wildcat upperclassmen in junior high that season.
Fourth-ranked Peetz has the tough task of bouncing back from last weekâ€™s disappointing loss by facing #10 Fleming (3-3) on the road this Friday. The Bulldogs know that they still have a shot at a North Division title if they take care of their own business and get just a little bit of help.
They showed a very balanced attack in the game last week, throwing the ball 21 times for 153 yards and rushing 27 times for 141. Tre Fehringer hit on six of nine passes for 99 yards and three touchdowns, two to Bryson Long. Long also rushed for 60 yards and two scores, but he missed most of the fourth quarter with an illness. Logan Sircy had a nice night catching the ball on both sides, hauling in three passes for 79 yards on offense and picking off a pass in the end zone to kill a Mustang drive. Gage Travis suffered a wrist injury in the fourth quarter, but finished the contest for the Bulldogs.
Fleming lost three of its first four games this season, but the Wildcats have responded by winning their last two 64-0 and 52-8. They will be a major player in the final league standings, as they host Prairie next week in the regular season finale. With a win this week, that game could be for the division title.
Peetz is the one team in the division that has had success against Fleming, as the Bulldogs have won six of the last 14 meetings. However, the Wildcats have won the last three and seven of the last eight against the Bulldogs. Last season, the Wildcats scored 58 points in the regular season against Peetz and 59 in the playoffs against them.
Cheyenne Wells heads into Fridayâ€™s game at Cheraw (0-6) looking to get back on track after its loss to Stratton/Liberty. The Tigers had only given up 34 points all season before allowing that many points in the first half last week. Quade Pelton finished the night by hitting on 16 of his 21 passing attempts for 167 yards and the teamâ€™s lone score, but three of his five incompletions ended up in the hands of defenders for interceptions.
The Wolverines might just be the right tonic to cure their ills this week, as Cheraw has been outscored 267-26. The Wolverines entered the season with just seven players and the coaches knew there was a chance that they might have to forfeit a game or two because of injuries or grades. Last week, that concern was realized as they had to scrub a game to Deer Trail (2-4). They had to forfeit last yearâ€™s game to Cheyenne Wells, as well.
Seventh-ranked Kit Carson (5-1) is in an interesting spot. The Wildcats need to beat Eads (4-2) this week and then have the Eagles turn around and beat Cheyenne Wells next week. That would create a three-way tie for the Southeast Division title, if the Wildcats beat Walsh next week. They go into this weekâ€™s game having posted a 77-0 shutout of Branson/Kim (1-4) last time out. Thatâ€™s the most points theyâ€™ve scored in a game since a 78-56 victory over Hanover on Sept. 28, 2012.
After opening the season with losses to #2 Otis and #9 Genoa-Hugo (4-2), Eads has pocketed four straight wins. The Eagles had scored at least 52 points in three straight before grinding out a 37-24 win over Walsh last week. Damian Hernandez churned out 161 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and freshman Brigden Parker completed two of five passes for 111 yards and two scores. Hernandez was on the receiving end of both.
Eads holds a slim 5-4 edge in the series with Kit Carson and the Eagles had won four consecutive meetings at one point. The Wildcats have fought back to take the last two match-ups, racing to a 48-8 decision last season.
La Veta (5-1) virtually assured itself of a Southwest Division title last week, as the eight-ranked Redskins downed Sierra Grande (5-1) 53-19. La Veta led 32-19 after a hotly contested first half, and then pulled away after the intermission. Ty Warren (149 yards) and Tannis Everett (147) led a powerful rushing attack, and Eric Morgan tossed two TD passes in the victory.
The Redskins host a Mountain Valley (2-3) squad that has scored 60 and 67 points in its last two games. The Indians are part of a three-way tie for fourth in the Southwest after blasting Primero (2-4) 67-0 last week. That tie includes those same Bulldogs as well as Antonito (2-3). Mountain Valley surrendered a forfeit to the Trojans earlier in the season. The Indians are 1-2 against La Veta as six-man programs, having lost the last two contests.
Genoa-Hugo can lock up an East Central Division title this week with a win over Colorado D & B (0-6) on Thursday and an Elbert (2-4) loss at Edison (3-3) on Saturday. If Elbert picks up the win on Saturday, the Bulldogs and Pirates would decide the division next week. Genoa-Hugo put itself in position to claim the crown by defeating Edison 73-25 last week. Caid Smith had a special day for the Pirates, rushing for 168 yards and three scores, throwing for 107 yards and two TDs, catching a 17-yards touchdown pass, registering a team-high 16 tackles, and housing an interception.
The Bulldogs enter Thursdayâ€™s game having been shutout each of the last two weeks. They have been outscored 261-57. The program has not earned a win over a Colorado school since claiming a forfeit over Deer Trail at the end of 2014. The last on field victory came against Edison early in the 2012 season.
One game of note from outside the top-10 has Arickaree/Woodlin (2-4) visiting Idalia (1-5) on Friday in the East Central. Idalia currently sits 15th in the RPI and the Indian-Mustangs are 18th. The Wolves have played the toughest schedule and would be in the playoffs if the season ended before games are played this week. If they win, they should clinch a postseason spot. The only possible snag would be if Genoa-Hugo does not win the Central. Arickaree/Woodlin could find itself going into the regular season finale with Otis next week holding down one of the final two spots if it pulls out the victory this week.