By the end of the night on Friday, one league champion could be crowned, and another could be added on Saturday. Plus, first place is on the line in the North and major RPI points are at stake throughout the weekend.
Friday night will be special in Cotopaxi (3-2, 14th RPI) as the Pirates will play their first home game under the lights. Portable lighting will be brought in for the game with Sierra Grande (3-3, 23rd RPI), and its a game that could give the Pirates the South West title. Cotopaxi comes in still smarting from a 28-12 loss to #8 Branson/Kim, a loss that snapped a three-game winning streak. The Pirates were held to 50 yards on 20 running plays, and they committed three turnovers in the contest.
Sierra Grande picked up a forfeit victory from Cripple Creek-Victor last week, so this will be the first on-field action for the Panthers since suffering a 33-32 loss at Mountain Valley (2-3, 20th RPI) two weeks ago. The teams were tied at 26 heading into the fourth quarter and the difference was a one-point conversion by the Indians in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Chairez rushed for 127 yards and two scores, and added a receiving touchdown for the Panthers. The sophomore also had a big night on defense, recording a sack, a fumble recovery, and an interception.
If Cotopaxi earns the win, it would be the sixth straight over Sierra Grande. Last year, the Pirates won 48-38. The Panthers outscored Cotopaxi 26-12 in the fourth to make things interesting. Chairez caught two touchdowns for Sierra Grande, while Tyler Sawyer ran for two for the Pirates. Sierra Grande has not beaten Cotopaxi since 2005.
The team that beat Cotopaxi last week, Branson/Kim, can wrap up the South Central title on Saturday with a win over visiting Primero (1-4, 29th RPI). The Bearcats are one of four remaining unbeaten teams in the state and the 81 points they have allowed is the second fewest, behind only Fleming’s 76. Elijah Aragon leads the defense with 38 tackles and five fumble recoveries. As a unit, the Bearcat defense has recorded 22 takeaways. Offensively, Finn Warner is just 29 yards shy of a 1,000 yard rushing campaign.
The Bulldogs snapped a four-game skid to begin the season with last week’s 39-28 victory over La Veta. They had only scored 13 total points going into that contest. Defense played a key role in that win, picking off four passes. Primero has only played the Bearcats one time in the past, a 47-39 loss last year. Warner had four total touchdowns for Branson/Kim in that meeting, including one on defense and another on a kick return.
Earlier in the week, fifth-ranked Flagler/Hi-Plains (6-0, 7th RPI) will host Peetz (2-4, 18th RPI) in a non-conference game. The teams will meet on Thursday afternoon in an attempt to give everyone a chance to avoid potentially dangerous road conditions from the winter storm expected to hit the area. The Thunder picked up yet another mercy rule victory last Saturday, beating Arickaree/Woodlin (1-5, 16th RPI) 52-0. It was their third straight win with a running clock. Zayd Banks threw for two touchdowns, rushed for one, and returned a kick for a fourth TD. Cooper Seaman recorded a safety for the defense.
Since opening the season 2-0, Peetz has dropped its last four. That includes last week’s 67-28 loss at #9 Briggsdale (4-2, 11th RPI). It was the third consecutive game in which the Bulldogs allowed more than 60 points, after only surrendering a total of 42 in the first two games. Cooper White rushed for 227 yards and three scores, but he was picked off three times throwing the ball. The Peetz defense was blistered for 599 yards from scrimmage in the contest.
Peetz beat the Thunder twice last year, 58-26 in the regular season and 64-7 in the playoffs. White rushed for 52 yards in the first meeting and then he burned the Thunder for 123 yards and three scores the second time around. He also picked off a pass in both games. Banks did not play in the second meeting.
Fresh off last week’s 51-43 victory over #4 Cheyenne Wells (5-1, 4th RPI), top-ranked Kit Carson (6-0, 1st RPI) will host Walsh (2-4, 13th RPI) on Friday. The Wildcats control their destiny in the South East Division after holding off the Tigers on Saturday. They led 31-8 at the half, but had to survive an onside kick attempt with just eight seconds remaining to pick up the win. The Wildcats will be heavily favored against the Eagles, who allowed more than 400 rushing yards to Eads (3-2, 10th RPI) in a 60-28 loss last week.
Speaking of Cheyenne Wells and Eads, those two squads will hook up on Saturday. After allowing more than 250 yards and six touchdowns on the ground to Jayden McCombs-Farmer last week, the Tigers will face the challenge of slowing down Damien Barnes. Barnes piled up 249 yards and four TDs against Walsh and now has 1044 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was held to just eight yards on five carries three weeks ago by Kit Carson.
Quade Pelton scored the only rushing touchdown for Cheyenne Wells last week, and he was on the receiving end of two TD passes from Kyle Nelson. Nelson threw for just under 200 yards and four touchdowns. Pelton and Nelson each threw a touchdown pass last year as the Tigers won their second straight against Eads, 61-7.
Second-ranked Fleming (6-0, 9th RPI) will welcome in #7 North Park (5-1, 8th RPI) on Saturday, looking to secure at least a share of the North Division crown. They beat Encampment (WY) 48-14 last week, with Brandon Williams rushing for 183 yards and four scores. Chris Goss also had a rushing TD and he added another tally on a fumble recovery.
North Park could create a possible four-way tie for the league lead with an upset of the hosts. They lost to Prairie, who currently sits second in the division, due to head-to-head tiebreakers over both North Park and Briggsdale. Briggsdale closes out the season with games against both Fleming and North Park, so much is still to be decided in the division. The Wildcats posted 48 first quarter points in last week’s 62-0 victory over Weldon Valley (0-6, 27th RPI). Evan Pieper and Destry Schmidt each rushed for two scores, and the defense returned three of four takeaways for touchdowns.
North Park has not fared well in its match-ups with Fleming, dropping six of seven in the series. The lone win came two years ago, 31-25.
Deer Trail (4-1, 12th RPI) can put the Central Division in a stranglehold with a win at Hanover (3-3, 22nd RPI) on Saturday. The Eagles would only need a win over Colorado D&B to claim sole possession of the title and they would be heavy favorites in that match-up. They put themselves in this position with a 53-14 win over Edison (1-5, 25th RPI) two weeks ago. Walker Morelock rushed for 154 yards and five touchdowns, and Dayne Woodis hauled in five passes for 121 yards and a touchdown from Kolter Eldringhoff in that win.
Hanover used a 32-25 victory over Edison last week to remain in contention for the division title. The Hornets led by two scores heading into the fourth, but Edison punched in a touchdown to keep things tight down to the wire. Josh Magana and each had two rushing touchdowns for the Hornets, and Blake Sebastian added one on a reception.
There have not been many meetings between Deer Trail and Hanover, as this will only be the third time they’ve hooked up. Hanover won the first 63-16 back in 2014, and Deer Trail evened the series with a 54-20 victory last season. Eldringhoff hit Woodis three times for touchdowns in that contest.
Saturday’s other key contest is a non-conference tilt between #3 Stratton/Liberty (5-1, 3rd RPI) and #10 Granada (5-1, 6th RPI). Stratton and Granada had quite a bit of history when both were in six-man, but this is just the third meeting between the Knighted Eagles and Bobcats. Last year, Stratton/Liberty took a 52-12 win in the regular season and followed that up with a 66-22 victory in the postseason. Jaret Lichty rushed for a combined 197 yards and two scores in those games, but his greater impact was on defense. He intercepted three Dominic Coleman passes in the first meeting and another one the second time around.
Lichty enters this year’s match-up having tallied 474 yards and eight touchdowns on 17 carries in the Knighted Eagles’ 84-35 victory over Idalia last week. The yardage total put the performance in the #7 slot all-time in CHSAA history, and his touchdown tally is tied for 14th. The team numbers for the game also made their way into the record books, as Stratton/Liberty rushed for 694 yards and 11 touchdowns, both good for third all-time.
Granada bounced back from a loss to Cheyenne Wells two weeks ago to pick up an important South East division win over Cheraw (3-3, 15th RPI) 26-12. The Bobcats find themselves third in their division and they will host another top three team next week, as Kit Carson comes to town.