When CHSAA released the realigned conferences for the 2020 season, it appeared to many that the North and East divisions would be the toughest. With one week in the books, the teams in those two leagues are a combined 10-0 in non-league contests. League play begins for almost everyone this week. PHOTO BY SHARON WILSON / WILSON PHOTOGRAPHY.
Originally, top-ranked Stratton/Liberty was slated to have an early season clash with Cheylin (KS) and its dynamic runner, Colton McCarty. With the delayed start to the season, that game was scrapped. Now, the Knighted Eagles, a 64-19 winner over Genoa-Hugo in week one, will get that test against another electric back in Damien Barnes from Eads.
Barnes went for 170 yards and four touchdowns on only nine carries in #7 Eads’ 54-13 victory over Kiowa in the season opener. Cade McDowell was only asked to throw three passes in the game, and the junior connected on two of them, both for touchdowns. The Eagles also got a solid high school debut from freshman kicker Porter Spady, who went 5 for 7 on PAT kicks. Spady led the defense with six tackles and his two sacks were tied with Barnes for team-high honors.
Stratton/Liberty also got a strong performance from its senior standout, Jaret Lichty, in its opening night victory. Lichty ran for three scores and tossed another, and he matched Spady by hitting five of his seven PAT kicks. Freshman Charlie Tagtmeyer made his debut at QB and completed all five of his passes for 87 yards and two scores. Will Witzel recorded a pair of sacks to help the defensive effort.
The winner will grab an early share of the East division lead, with the victor of Saturday’s clash between #4 Cheyenne Wells and #8 Hi-Plains. Cheyenne Wells posted a 52-7 win over Hanover in the first week of the season, with Evan Worley rushing for three scores and returning a kick-off for another. Preston Hernandez tossed a TD pass to Blake Gilmore, and the defense got fumble recoveries for scores from Ty Scheler and Drew Scheimer.
Hi-Plains was equally impressive in its 64-13 victory over Deer Trail, giving Chase McCullough his first win as a head coach. With Eads and Stratton/Liberty in the next two weeks, opening the season 2-0 overall and 1-0 in league play would be huge for the Patriots as they try to make the postseason in their first year back on their own following the split from Flagler in their co-op.
In the North, #2 Fleming will host fellow unbeaten North Park on Saturday. No team was more impressive in week one than North Park, who rolled Flagler 77-0. The Wildcats from Walden led 30-0 after one quarter and 57-0 at the half in their road contest. Ale Nugent and Evan Pieper combined for 165 yards and five TD on seven rushing attempts, and freshmen Jayden Dailey and Makeon Crum added another three rushing scores between them. Hunter Sessions put the ball in the air twice, with Cordell Garriott snagging both passes for touchdowns. Nugent added a kick return for a TD and also recorded an interception in the victory.
Fleming had few troubles in defeating Arickaree/Woodlin 54-6 last Friday. Nolan Japp and Charles Hobbs each ran for two touchdowns, Chris Goss scored on a pick-six, and Kenny Bandy was 6 for 7 on PAT kicks, and the defense held the Indian-Mustangs to just 65 yards of offense. Goss had a game-high 16 tackles, while Japp finished with 13. Fleming has won two straight meetings with their fellow Wildcats, and seven of eight overall.
Initially scheduled for Friday, the other important match-up in the North featuring #3 Prairie and #9 Briggsdale was moved to Monday due to COVID issues. Those two met during the Colorado Rural Football League season, as Raymer and B-dale, with Raymer picking up a 77-42 victory. While the rosters remain very similar as they were during that meeting back in late-September, each side will have some new faces in play this time around.
Prairie found itself in a track meet last Saturday in its opener at Idalia. Buoyed by a 34-0 start, the Mustangs outlasted their hosts 76-41. Arek Wulf tallied 324 yards and five touchdowns on 21 carries to lead the way, with Andy Long adding 205 yards and four touchdowns on 10 of 13 passing. David Speicher caught two of those scoring passes.
Briggsdale got a stronger outing from its defense, as the Falcons earned a 55-12 win at Otis last week. That unit forced four turnovers, including a pair of interceptions by Isiah Nava. Shane Donoho led the squad with 16 tackles and a fumble recovery. Offensively, Malik Carlson ran for 117 yards and four TDs, and six different players caught a pass, as the Falcons showed off the depth of its roster. Briggsdale will be looking to reverse recent history in the series, as Prairie has won the last three meetings, and five of the last six.
One other match-up this weekend pairs unbeaten opponents, as Cheraw hosts Cotopaxi on Saturday, with huge RPI points awaiting the winner. Cheraw blasted Cripple Creek-Victor 59-0 last week, and the Wolverines limited the Pioneers to just 100 yards of offense. Cotopaxi had a more difficult time in beating Manzanola 44-34. The Pirates trailed 14-12 after one quarter, but outscored the Bobcats 25-13 over the next two frames to get what would be the final cushion.
Sophomore QB Ty Coleman threw for 166 yards and five touchdowns, with Peter Belt being his favorite target. Belt caught five balls for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Gary Jarvis also hauled in a pair of TDs. The defense struggled at times, allowing more than 400 yards of offense to the Bobcats, including nearly 250 on the ground. The Pirates were aided by 17 Manzanola penalties.
Manzanola will look to clean things up ahead of Friday night’s Southeast division game at Granada. Along with those penalties, the Bobcats also turned the ball over several times. That won’t work against an opponent as talented as Granada. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Manzanola in that opening loss. Daniel Escareno hit on 9 of 11 passes for 138 yards and two scores, and he added another score on the ground. Dalton Carroll powered the ground game with 128 yards and a TD, and he caught three passes for 96 yards and two more scores.
Granada jumped all over La Veta last week, getting out to a 28-0 first quarter lead. By the half, that advantage had grown to 52-6, putting the mercy clock in effect. The Bobcats would go on to a 58-13 victory. Dominic Coleman picked up where he left off as a sophomore last year, as the now junior completed nine of 15 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for 95 yards and two TDs. Four different players were on the receiving end of the scoring passes, including John Hainer, who was the only one to catch more than one pass. The big sophomore fullback finished with four catches and 99 yards. Ivan Yanez, who had a receiving TD, also added one on a pick-six.
There have only been three previous meetings between the two sets of Bobcats, with Granada winning all three. Last year, Coleman tallied 276 yards from scrimmage, doing most of the damage with his legs (176 yards, two TD). Granada scored two third quarter touchdowns to grab a come from behind 24-18 victory.
Tenth-ranked Branson/Kim opens Southeast league play at home on Saturday against Walsh, looking to improve to 2-0 on the young season. The Bearcats had troubles defending the passing game of Sierra Grande, allowing A.J. Ojeda to complete 10 of 15 passes for 180 yards and three scores. But the defense also provided the big blow in the 34-19 victory, as freshman Brock Doherty came up with a 20-yard interception return. The run defense also shone, as that part of the defense held the Panthers to just 49 yards on 14 attempts, with 20 coming on one play.
Walsh gave up 26 unanswered points in the second half, including 20 in the fourth quarter, of a 39-8 loss at Mountain Valley. The Eagles were outgained by more than 200 yards by the Indians, and they lost a pair of fumbles, one of which went back for a score. Kevin Rodriguez scored the lone touchdown for Walsh, and also recorded an interception. Salvador Vigil had a big offensive day for Mountain Valley, running for 176 yards and three touchdowns, and throwing for 129 yards and another TD.
Other key games this Friday have #5 Kit Carson looking to improve to 2-0 in non-league play when the Wildcats visit Kiowa, and Idalia visiting Arickaree/Woodlin, with the winner grabbing an early share of the lead in the Northeast. On Saturday, Hanover travels to Genoa-Hugo, as those two try to open the Central division schedule with a victory.