With few exceptions, all of the top eight seeds easily advanced to the quarterfinals in the six-man play-offs. Only two games were decided by fewer than 33 points in the opening round, and the average margin of victory was almost 41 points. The following preview is in bracket order.
#1 STRATTON/LIBERTY (9-1) AT #8 GRANADA (6-4) SATURDAY 1PM
The top-seeded Knighted Eagles had no problem dispatching #16 Manzanola in the opening round, jumping out to a 32-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. They would go on to win 68-0. Ethan Richmond, Eltan Yarger, and Owen Clapper combined for 361 yards and seven touchdowns on just 11 rushing attempts. Riggin Williams (10 tackles) and Jaret Lichty (nine tackles) helped spearhead a defensive effort that held the Bobcats to just 112 yards of offense.
Granada also utilized a big first quarter in its 40-7 victory over previously unbeaten Mountain Valley, the #9 seed. The Bobcats struck for 24 points in the first period and never looked back against the Indians. Dominic Coleman only completed three of his eight pass attempts, but all three went for touchdowns. Two of those connections were with Damien Cebulski. Josh Baca caught the other touchdown, adding it to one he scored on the ground.
This will be a rematch of a regular season meeting between the two teams. Granada came away with a defensive stop deep in its own territory on the opening possession of the game and then marched the length of the field for the only points of the first quarter. The Knighted Eagles would then score 20 second quarter points and turned the game into a rout, winning 52-12. Coleman was intercepted three times in that contest, while Tyson Lichty tossed five TD passes.
#4 OTIS (7-3) AT #5 PEETZ (7-2) SATURDAY 1PM
Continuing the trend of early blowouts, Otis built a 28-0 first quarter lead and then cruised to a 56-6 opening round win over #13 Cotopaxi. The Bulldogs got six touchdowns from Bryce Miracle, four rushing and one apiece passing and receiving, and their defense held the Pirates to just 107 yards of offense. That unit had four players with double digit tackles, led by Tyler Reynolds and Landston Schaffert, each with a dozen, and the group forced three turnovers.
Peetz also had a big first frame in its opening round victory over #12 Flagler/Hi-Plains, torching the Thunder for 30 points in the period. The Bulldogs got big days from Bryson Long and Cooper White, who combined for 282 yards on the ground and each scored three touchdowns. Zach Holtz threw a TD and added one more on a kick return.
Otis won the first meeting between these two sets of Bulldogs, taking a 64-43 victory at home way back in the season-opener. Peetz led throughout the first half, but a late touchdown by Otis brought them to within three points (28-25) and swung the momentum behind the home team. They would outscored Peetz 27-8 in the third quarter to take control. Miracle rushed for 321 yards and six touchdowns for Otis, while Long topped the 100-yard mark and scored three times on the ground for Peetz.
#6 PRAIRIE (7-3) AT #3 ARICKAREE/WOODLIN (7-2) SATURDAY 1PM
Prairie took an early 20-0 lead on #11 Idalia in the opening round, but watched the Wolves score 28 unanswered points in the second quarter to grab the halftime advantage. With a strong win blowing from the north all afternoon, few points were scored heading into it and the Mustangs would use that to their advantage in the second half. They would outscore Idalia 16-0 in the third quarter to regain the lead, and then held on for a 50-34 victory. Wyatt Schnug scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground, including one late that put the game away.
The only opening round game played on Friday night saw Arickaree/Woodlin take care of business early against #14 Genoa-Hugo, winning 56-7. The Indian-Mustangs scored 28 first quarter points and had the mercy clock rolling by the midpoint of the second quarter. Their JV would play the rest of the way. Kevin Ramirez scored in all three phases of the game, posting touchdowns as a runner, a punt returner, and on a pick-six.
While they did not play during the regular season, the teams are familiar with each other. They scrimmaged prior to the season and also played a JV game about midway through the season.
#2 KIT CARSON (9-0) AT #7 FLEMING (7-3) SATURDAY NOON
As one would expect in a match-up between a top two seed and the last wild card qualifier, Kit Carson made short work of #15 North Park in the first round. The homestanding Wildcats grabbed the early lead against their namesake from North Park and cruised to a 50-9 victory. It was the sixth time this season Kit Carson held an opponent to fewer than 10 points.
Fleming had a tougher go of things in its opening round clash with #10 Cheyenne Wells. The Wildcats trailed most of the first half, and were down 20-18 at the intermission. A third quarter touchdown would put them in front 26-20 and a late tally secured the 32-20 victory. Kade Comstock threw for 126 yards with a TD and Brandon Williams powered the running game with 138 yards and three scores. Chris Goss added a pick-six for the defense.
These two teams have not met in the playoffs in 25 years. Fleming won the only previous postseason clash of the Wildcats, taking a 45-20 victory back in 1993.